At a makeshift memorial with flowers and prayer candles, six teens from Rancho High School gathered to remember their friend, who was fatally beaten this month.
Jonathan Lewis Jr., a 17-year–old Rancho student, died Nov. 7 from his injuries after police say he was beaten by a group of 10 teenagers near the school campus on Nov. 1. Four juveniles arrested in the case who are 16 or older are expected to appear Friday in Las Vegas Justice Court.
On Thursday, Lewis’ friends paid their respects to their friend by pouring liquid from cans of Monster Energy drink onto the ground near the memorial. The drink, they said, was Lewis’ favorite after-school beverage.
“Jonathan used to do that for some friends who died, too,” one of the teens noted.
The teens agreed to be interviewed on condition of anonymity.
“He didn’t deserve it,” another friend said of Lewis’ death. “There was no reason for it.”
‘Always looking out for his friends’
A friend said he learned of the beating when he got home from school that day and ran back to Rancho, where he saw Lewis on the ground after being moved from the alley to the campus. “He was over there, getting resuscitated. The teachers were just, ‘Stay away, Stay away.’ ”
Another teen described Lewis as a loyal friend.
“Jonathan was always looking out for his friends,” he said. “He was a great person. He would sit down with us (and say), ‘You could do it’ kind of stuff. Always very encouraging.”
While Lewis did not join any school sports team or clubs, he worked hard on his classwork and liked to draw, another friend said.
Lewis’ friends added that violence has been a problem at Rancho and in nearby blocks and that it can get dangerous at night, with homeless people and break-ins.
“If you’re just at the wrong place at the wrong time, you will end up in troubles,” one of them said.
“It’s kind of getting out of hand,” another said.
‘Very difficult to process’
Rancho High School history teacher and state Assemblyman Reuben D’Silva said he, along with other teachers and students, is trying to cope after the fatal beating.
“It’s very difficult to process,” he said Thursday. “I still can’t believe it.”
D’Silva, who graduated from Rancho High in 2003, is now in his 10th year teaching at the school. He grew up in the neighborhood and still lives in the area.
He said he lived in an apartment near to the school during his first two years of teaching and knows well the alley where the beating occurred.
That area has always been a problem — even when he was a child — and fights happen there frequently, he said. When he was a child, his brother was robbed in the same alley, D’Silva said.
He said that the area is not well-patrolled and that there are many abandoned apartments and open lots near the school.
The school experienced an increase in on-campus fights after students returned to campus following the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, and the security presence was bolstered, including more hall monitors.
“The kids know they can’t fight on campus,” he said, adding that they tend to go to alleys or abandoned apartments off campus when fights are preordained.
If it had taken place on Rancho’s campus, “I think Jonathan would still be alive today,” D’Silva said.
The beating death probably will leave behind long-standing effects, noting it has shocked and shaken people to their core, he said.
Call for heightened after-school police presence
D’Silva said he’s heartened and thankful, however, to see the response from school administrators.
Staff has been kept up to date, and “tremendous resources” are being offered to students and employees, he said. Las Vegas and Clark County School District police presence has been heightened around the campus, and additional social workers and counselors have been brought in for students and employees who need to talk, he said.
D’Silva said he wants people to know that “our schools are still some of the safest places where young people find themselves in.”
When students get off campus, that’s a different story and needs to be addressed, D’Silva said, noting he intends make a concerted effort to delve into that issue.
D’Silva said he wants to call on police to patrol the area surrounding the school, especially after school gets out. He said he thinks that such a presence would be a deterrent to fights.