The parents of Tyler Lewis, the Buffalo State sophomore who was fatally stabbed near the Ellicott Complex in October, are suing UB and Buffalo State University in connection with their son’s death.
The lawsuit, filed earlier this month in the New York State Court of Claims, alleges that both universities “failed to properly vet students prior to admission and admitted students known to have a violent history,” who then attacked Lewis.
“The defendant universities deliberately and/or recklessly admitted students known to be a danger or known to have a dangerous propensity, thereby exposing the claimants’ only child to a dangerous environment where he was likely to be seriously injured or killed,” the claim reads.
Roquishia Lewis, Tyler Lewis’ mother, also told The Spectrum in a phone interview in mid January that at least one of her son’s alleged assailants was a prior felon.
A spokesperson for Buffalo State declined to comment. But in response to a question about whether current or former UB students were among those who allegedly attacked Tyler Lewis, UB spokesperson John Della Contrada told The Spectrum in an email that “the claims made in the lawsuit are not supported by the evidence gathered in the case.”
Roquishia Lewis declined to comment on the filing, but said she was “not confident” with Erie County District Attorney and UPD’s investigation into her son’s death.
“I’m not confident in anything,” she said in a phone interview with The Spectrum. “I’m going to have to go ahead and start demonstrating and protesting and doing whatever I have to do in order to get the district attorney to do his job.”
She didn’t think calling officials would get her message across. Roquishia Lewis says UB stopped returning calls about a month after the incident. (Della Contrada said that UPD has had “regular contact” with the Lewis family.)
So instead, Roquishia Lewis came to North Campus on Monday, handing out fliers advertising a $4,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and an anonymous tip line set up by the Lewis family. She also told WGRZ that she hired a private investigator last week.
The same day Roquishia Lewis came to UB, Chris Bartolomei, chief of University Police, said in a statement that UPD is in the “final stages” of its investigation and expects the DA’s office to act “in the very near future.”
“We want nothing more than to provide the Lewis family with answers that will help them make sense of Tyler’s tragic death,” Bartolomei said. “Because this remains an active investigation, we are unable to publicly release any further information until the DA is prepared to do so.”
Roquishia Lewis told The Spectrum in mid January that prosecutors had received lab results and identified “everyone that was involved,” making her even more frustrated with the lack of arrests.
“Everyone [of those involved in the incident] lawyered up, and they [prosecutors] claim they can’t talk to them because they have lawyers, which is nonsense,” she said. “District Attorney John Flynn and ADA [Assistant District Attorney] Gary Hackbush know exactly who this white assailant is. They know exactly who it is. They said it from the beginning. And they already have his DNA. There’s no reason for him not to have been arrested already. ”
Kait Munro, a spokesperson for the Erie County District Attorney’s office, declined to comment, citing the “active, ongoing investigation.”
Roquishia Lewis also told The Spectrum that investigators believe her son’s death is linked to a fight involving at least one alleged assailant that took place earlier that evening. She also says a university incident report states that the suspect received medical treatment at the scene.
“I got a witness that came forward on my end and said that he [the suspect] was there,” Roquishia Lewis said. “He got beat up. And then he came back with a knife.”
UPD’s incident report log contains a report of an assault at Flickinger Court from roughly an hour before a first aid report that matches the timing, location and facts of Tyler Lewis’ death, but Della Contrada said that incident stemmed from an unrelated dispute between roommates that occurred days earlier and was reported the day Tyler Lewis died. He also disputes Roquishia Lewis' assertion that her son's death was related to an earlier fight.
The Spectrum attempted to obtain copies of the police reports for both incidents, but the request was denied on the grounds that disclosing the reports would “interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings.”
Roquishia Lewis also added that she “knows” that Tyler Lewis wasn’t at that first fight because she was tracking his cell phone that evening, as she usually did. He wasn’t on North Campus until about 20 minutes after the altercation, she said, adding that she has turned over that cell phone location data to investigators.
She also called UPD’s ability to solve a murder into question, adding that her confidence in them was “shaky.” University officials have previously stated that it has been at least 30 years since “anything similar” has happened on campus.
Della Contrada disputed that characterization, maintaining that UPD’s “highly-trained team” has competently handled the Tyler Lewis investigation, especially with assistance and resources from the FBI, New York State Police, Amherst Police and Erie County Central Police Services.
“UB Police possess a depth of experience in all aspects of law enforcement and are well prepared to maintain safety on our campuses,” Della Contrada said.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to include a link to the Lewis family's lawsuit and additional statements from John Della Contrada.
Grant Ashley is the managing editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Grant Ashley is the editor in chief of The Spectrum. He's also reported for WBFO, WIVB and The Buffalo News. He enjoys taking long bike rides, baking with his parents’ ingredients and recreating Bob Ross paintings in crayon. He can be found on the platform formerly known as Twitter at @Grantrashley.