No charges will be filed in connection with the death of Tyler Lewis, the 19-year-old Buffalo State sophomore who was fatally stabbed outside the Ellicott Complex, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said at a press conference Friday.
Flynn said that he was confident the grand jury would decide not to press charges, but convened one anyway “out of fairness to the family.”
“I still put the case in the grand jury for not only transparency, but just to show that one person is not going to make this decision solely,” Flynn said.
Flynn, who wouldn’t use the name of anyone involved in the incident, said the person who stabbed Lewis did so in self-defense, making the stabbing “justifiable” under New York State self-defense laws.
The DA stated that Lewis and four individuals attempted to purchase marijuana from a lone dealer with counterfeit money on UB’s North Campus. The meeting was pre-arranged, according to text message evidence. Prosecutors stated that Lewis was carrying a large knife and $1,800 in counterfeit money, which the group planned to use to purchase the marijuana.
Some of the four individuals who accompanied Lewis had previously robbed marijuana dealers, Flynn said.
A fight broke out between Lewis and the dealer, according to multiple witness accounts and video surveillance reviewed by the DA’s office. Lewis’ four friends joined the fight, at which point the dealer stabbed Lewis.
After the stabbing, Lewis and two of the individuals ran to their car, where Lewis collapsed. A UB RA approached the scene, at which point the two individuals left the scene.
The RA then called emergency services. University Police officers arrived at the scene one minute later and provided first aid and CPR until EMS arrived 11 minutes after the RA’s call, the university said in a statement Friday.
Flynn also denied that the stabbing was connected to an earlier fight, a claim made by some members of the Lewis family.
Of the four individuals who accompanied Lewis to the deal, two were Buffalo State University students, one was a former Buffalo State student and one was a UB student. That student no longer goes to UB, the university said. The stabber was unaffiliated with either school.
The DA said he was prohibited from discussing what evidence went before the grand jury but disclosed that evidence gathered in the case included cell phone records and locations, social media exchanges, video surveillance, witness accounts and a search of the stabber’s vehicle.
Investigators never recovered the marijuana, the knife used in the stabbing or the dealer’s phone. (Flynn said the phone was destroyed by one of the individuals who arrived on campus with Lewis.)
The Lewis family provided Flynn with the names of two witnesses whom they wanted to go before the grand jury upon his request, Flynn said. Neither of those witnesses — one of whom was Karla Longmore, Lewis’ girlfriend — went before the grand jury.
Flynn said he was “a little miffed” about allegations of incompetence and racism made by the Lewis family at a press conference last week but said he was “more upset about a young man dying.”
“It appears by all accounts that the victim was a fine young man from a good, supportive, loving family,” Flynn said. “Sometimes kids get involved with other kids who steer them down the wrong path.”
Roquishia Lewis, Tyler Lewis’ mother, called the outcome of the investigation “terrible” in a brief statement to The Spectrum.
“To Tyler’s family and friends: the investigators, officers and staff within the University Police continue to extend their sincerest condolences,” UB Chief of Police Chris Bartolomei said in a statement Friday.
In its statement, UB thanked the law enforcement organizations that assisted with UPD’s investigation and the RA who called for assistance the night Lewis was stabbed.
“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the family and friends of Tyler Lewis during this extremely difficult time,” Buffalo State University President Katherine Conway-Turner said in a statement to The Spectrum Friday. “This is a tragedy of enormous proportions regardless of the circumstances. We are heartbroken by this tragic incident.”
Lewis was stabbed outside the Ellicott Complex on a Friday night last October. He was taken to ECMC, where he later died.
The grand jury had been investigating the case since at least late January.
The Lewis family sued UB and Buffalo State University in January, alleging that they “failed to properly vet students prior to admission and admitted students known to have a violent history, thereby failing to provide a safe environment.”
Lawyers representing the schools disputed those claims in a court filing. The case is ongoing.
Grant Ashley is the managing editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Suha Chowdhury is an assistant news editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Grant Ashley is the editor in chief of The Spectrum. He's also reported for NPR, 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.