URBANA — The Champaign County state’s attorney and the Urbana police department have concluded that officers who arrested a combative woman in east Urbana last month during a shooting investigation acted within the law and departmental policy.
“I am satisfied that it was done within policy and within the bounds of the law,” Police Chief Bryant Seraphin said of the April 10 arrest of Aleyah Lewis, 21.
“The officers acted appropriately under the law and Urbana Police Department policy,” State’s Attorney Julia Rietz added. “We are proceeding with the charges filed against Ms. Lewis.”
Lewis was arrested about 4:44 p.m. on that Friday, just 10 minutes after police were dispatched to East Colorado Avenue and South Cottage Grove Avenue, to investigate a shot fired.
Also arrested was her companion — Kamarion Busby, 19, of Champaign — who has been charged with aggravated discharge of a firearm, reckless discharge of a firearm and unlawful use of weapons by a felon for allegedly firing a bullet that entered an occupied apartment in the 1100 block of Colorado Avenue. Police found a gun on Busby, who cooperated in his arrest and remains in jail.
Lewis, who was initially standing beside Busby, had a different reaction that led to the minutes-long battle with officers who struggled to get her handcuffed and into a squad car.
When police arrived, there were two couples in the area where the shot had been fired, Seraphin said.
“It was initially unclear who the involved couple was,” he said, adding officers were trying to figure out who was armed and who was not when a yelling Lewis started to walk away from them. When she disregarded police commands to come to them, officers moved toward her to detain her but she fought mightily to avoid being handcuffed while on the ground.
Edible Xanax a factor?
In the struggle, Sgt. Mike Cervantes got scratched on the right side of his face and his thumb was broken. He is expected to be off work a total of 12 weeks following surgery.
The dissection of the police response to Lewis’ arrest was the subject of three hours of a four-hour Urbana City Council meeting this week that took place on Zoom.
Rietz attended virtually and answered questions for council members, who also heard a lengthy presentation from Seraphin and Lt. Jason Norton.
Part of that was seeing video footage from the body cameras of four officers and one squad car present during the melee that caused a storm on social media in its aftermath.
“I understand that if all you have seen is YouTube video, you are going to have questions,” Seraphin said. “That’s why we put together the presentation — to answer as many questions as we could.”
That entire presentation, including the video, can be viewed on the city’s website. Also online is a brief interview an officer did with Lewis the next morning at the county jail, during which she indicated she had little memory of her encounter with police.
She told the officer that she had consumed an edible Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication that’s supposed to have a calming effect.
Apology to officer
When the officer commented that could have accounted for her extraordinary strength, she responded that she is a strong person. She also apologized to him.
Lewis was not visibly injured from the variety of control tactics police used on her, including being struck in the “brachial plexus” — a combination of nerves in the side of the neck by the shoulder — and a knee strike to her right side.
Prior to the presentation, City Clerk Charlie Smyth read several emails into the record from citizens upset with the way police handled Lewis’ arrest.
Seraphin noted that the shots fired call required the response of the “entire shift of eight officers split into seven units.” An officer in training was in one of those cars.
Their response to the shooting investigation was delayed because of the encounter with Lewis.
She was ultimately charged with three counts of aggravated battery for allegedly punching, kicking and spitting on officers and a fourth count of felony resisting arrest, leading to Cervantes’ broken thumb.
She spent a week in jail before posting $2,000 cash to be released on April 17. Her next court date is June 23.
Police found that the bullet fired lodged in the wall of an apartment where people were present but no one there was injured.