Man takes own life to avoid capture

Published 5:00 am Thursday, June 26, 2008

A man accused of multiple counts of sex crimes involvingchildren committed suicide in the empty parking lot of a BrookwayBoulevard restaurant rather than be taken into custody Wednesday,officials said.

Robert Lloyd Lewis, 48, of Brandon, was scheduled to appear inRankin County Circuit Court Tuesday on charges of six counts ofsexual battery of a child and one count of exploitation inincidents occurring between 2000 and 2005. Officials said he missedhis court date, at which point a warrant was issued for hisarrest.

Mississippi Department of Corrections officials had receivedinformation that Lewis was staying in a hotel in BrookhavenWednesday.

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Brookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson said he sent investigatorsto check for the vehicle Lewis was believed to be driving.

“Since it was in our jurisdiction we went to see if his car wasthere, and there was a vehicle from Rankin County backed up to thedoor of the hotel room,” Henderson said.

Henderson said his officers and MDOC officers set upsurveillance, but Lewis ended up leaving the hotel while theywaited in the parking lot. Officials said it is unclear whether hewas leaving because he knew there were law enforcement officialsthere or for another reason.

“When he got on Brookway Boulevard going east, we ascertainedthat it was a white male driving and we attempted to pull him overby turning on our blue lights,” Henderson said. “Then he turnedinto the (El Sombrero Mexican Restaurant) parking lot there andshot himself.”

Henderson said police knew Lewis might be in possession of a gunand were wary of a standoff situation, but such a situation neverescalated.

“We had information he had a gun, but we didn’t know what kind,”he said. “And we knew that he had said he was not going toprison.”

Lewis died of a gunshot to the head, officials said.

Lincoln County Coroner Clay McMorris said Lewis was pronounceddead by medical service personnel at 2:35 p.m. He affirmed thedeath by self-inflicted gunshot wound at 2:55 p.m. when he arrivedon the scene.

Rankin County District Attorney Michael Guest said that althoughLewis had not yet been convicted, his office was confident inprosecutors’ case against him.

“The state had a very strong case against Mr. Lewis and webelieve he fled to avoid being brought to justice on thesecharges,” Guest said. “Our office appreciates the help of all theauthorities in Brookhaven for their attempt to apprehend him.”

Henderson and Assistant Police Chief Nolan Jones said there wasliterature in the vehicle Lewis was driving from Percy Quinn StatePark, but that they didn’t know why he was stopped inBrookhaven.

“I don’t know why he was here, if he had friends or relativeshere,” Henderson said. “So far no one has come forward if so.”