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‘Void of humanity’: 8 teens arrested in ‘heinous’ beating death of Rancho teen, police say

Updated November 14, 2023 - 8:14 pm

Eight teens between the ages of 13 and 17 have been arrested in the video-recorded fatal mob beating of a 17-year-old Rancho High School student, Las Vegas police announced Tuesday.

The killing of Jonathan Lewis Jr. was captured in a video that Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Jason Johansson described as “very graphic” and “very void of humanity.”

The video shows about 10 people “kicking, stomping and punching our victim Jonathan as he’s on the ground, not defending himself” until he’s unconscious, Johansson said, calling the attack “heinous.”

“They’re extremely disturbing,” Undersheriff Andrew Walsh said of videos circulating that show the Nov. 1 fight. “This should be a reminder to all of us to have those difficult conversations with our children, and remind them that their actions have consequences.”

The eight teens will be charged with murder, Walsh said.

Johansson said police were still looking for two people who were involved in the beating. He said police will be releasing additional images of the two people.

Lewis’ father, Jonathan Lewis Sr., 38, of Austin, Texas, said in a text message that it was truly a relief that arrests have been made.

“I’m calling on the youth to use their collective voice to demand change, create a deep sense of community, and do something with your power instead of enslaving yourselves to anger, rage, and cowardly violence,” Lewis Sr. said in a statement issued by text message.

Lewis Sr. said his son died Nov. 7 at University Medical Center. Johansson said Tuesday that police were told by Lewis’ family that Lewis was medically brain dead and that the family had decided to donate his organs.

The Clark County coroner’s office on Tuesday afternoon said that Lewis died from complications of multiple blunt force injuries and that his death has been ruled a homicide.

The beating happened steps away from Rancho High School in an alley behind an apartment building at 1308 N. 21st St., just north of Searles Avenue.

Johansson said the after-school fight was spurred by the theft of a pair of wireless headphones, and possibly a marijuana vape pen, from incidents earlier in the week in which those items were stolen from either Lewis or his friends, Johansson said. Because of this, a fight was set up in the back alley. The kids walked there after school.

‘Kicking, punching and stomping on him’

Johansson said video shows Lewis taking off some clothing to get ready for the fight.

“The minute the punch is thrown with that person, 10 subjects immediately swarm (Lewis), pull him to the ground, and begin kicking, punching and stomping on him,” Johansson said.

After the fight, Lewis was on the ground in the alley, unresponsive and unconscious. A person who was nearby carried him back to Rancho High School, prompting the initial 911 calls and police to respond at about 2:05 p.m.

Lewis was taken to University Medical Center, and it was determined that Lewis had suffered nonsurvivable head trauma, Johansson said.

Metro police, with the help of school police and Rancho High administrators, were able to “quickly identify” many of the people involved in the fight from the video on social media, Johansson said.

Police have identified 10 people involved in the killing, Johansson said. Police have not yet been able to identify two other people, he said.

The teens were arrested Tuesday with the help of the FBI’s Criminal Apprehension Team. During the execution of nine search warrants at various locations across the Las Vegas valley on Tuesday, investigators were able to obtain clothing that the kids were wearing during the beating, Johannson said.

‘Potentially varying degrees of culpabilty’

The eight, who have not been named by police, have been booked into the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center.

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said that two of the juveniles who have been arrested are 16 or older, meaning he expects them to be automatically certified as adults. He said the other juveniles will have to go through a certification hearing in juvenile court.

He said the district attorney’s office will review the video of the attack and other evidence to determine if all of the teenagers will be formally charged with murder.

“There are potentially varying degrees of culpability, and that will all be analyzed and reviewed by the district attorney’s office and I will make the final decisions on who will be charged with what,” Wolfson told the Review-Journal on Tuesday.

Wolfson said it will be up to a judge in juvenile court to determine which of the juveniles could be charged as adults.

“At the end of the day, a young man was brutally murdered, and I believe that some of these juveniles will be held responsible,” he said.

The eight suspects are expected to appear in juvenile court for a detention hearing on Wednesday morning, Wolfson said.

Clark County School District Police Chief Mike Blackeye said school police officers were patrolling the Rancho High campus the day of the fight, but hadn’t received any information that there was going to be an incident at the apartments where the fight happened.

Blackeye said the school police department has 194 police officers covering 370 schools every day, a total he said was obviously not enough.

“We’re providing extra coverage at Rancho and other sites,” Blackeye said.

‘Very heinous crime’

Because most of the teens involved in the beating are Black, and Lewis was white, some commentary on social media has speculated that the crime had a racial element. Lewis Sr. on Monday condemned such racist commentary surrounding the incident.

Asked if the beating was a hate crime, Johansson said there was no evidence to suggest that was the case.

“Right now I have no evidence at all that this is a hate crime,” Johansson said Tuesday. “It is a murder, which in my opinion is a very heinous crime in and of itself, but I do not have evidence of a hate crime.”

This marks the second viral video since August to show Las Vegas teens displaying an apparent callous disregard for human life. On Aug. 14, cyclist Andreas Probst was killed, allegedly by two teens in a hit-and-run, one whom allegedly recorded the incident. Johansson was asked what these videos say about children in Las Vegas.

“I don’t want to get into surmising what I believe is going on with the youth,” Johansson said. “I don’t want to believe that this is what everyone is doing. I want to believe that this is a small subset of the population.”

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com. Review-Journal staff writers Katelyn Newberg and David Wilson and digital producer Marvin Clemons contributed to this report.

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