Manassas man accused of receiving child porn shoots himself as agents move in

A neighbor shot this video Thursday of police activity after a man apparently shot himself while federal agents were moving in to arrest him on child pornography charges. (Rosie Lee Ellyson/Facebook)
August 1, 2013

A Manassas man charged with receiving child pornography apparently shot and killed himself Thursday morning during a confrontation with federal agents sent to his quiet suburban street to arrest him, authorities said.

One agent shot Douglas C. Lewis, 56, in the lower body during the encounter outside Lewis’s townhouse, but Lewis then ran behind a fence and shot himself in the head, authorities said. Agents found him fatally wounded.

The dramatic events began just before 6:30 a.m., when federal agents arrived at Lewis’s home on Covington Place intending to arrest him on child porn charges. According to officials from the Prince William County Police Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agents saw Lewis leaving the home as they approached.

Lewis “ignored commands” from the agents and fled down an alley between two townhouses, police said, where he pulled out a handgun and pointed it at his pursuers. One of the agents fired at Lewis and hit him in the lower body. Authorities said that Lewis did not fire his gun at the agents.

Although he was injured, Lewis ran behind a fence and shot himself, police said.

The incident — which is now under investigation by county police and federal authorities — shocked those who live on the normally quiet street lined with rows of brick townhouses. Neighbors said the sound of gunshots awakened them. Heidi Lang, 56, said other neighbors told her they had heard authorities yell “Drop it!” several times.

Spokesmen for the federal and county authorities declined to say how many shots were fired, although a Prince William police spokesman said it was clear that Lewis had shot himself. He said investigators recovered a handgun near Lewis’s body.

Lang said Lewis — whom she and her husband had known since he moved to the neighborhood five or six years ago — was a computer expert who worked in maintenance. She also said he was a gun collector whom she thought had a concealed-carry permit, owned about a dozen firearms and once came home with medals from a target-shooting competition.

Of the shooting, she said: “I’m not really surprised because I’m sure he came out with a gun.”

Lewis’s alleged criminal activity, however, was “a total shock to all of us,” Lang said. Court records show that Lewis had been the target of a child pornography investigation for more than a year; according to an arrest affidavit, a federal agent first identified an IP address associated with the Covington Place home sharing porn in July 2012.

Agents searched Lewis’s home in October, seizing at least 50 photographs and 157 videos of suspected child porn, according to the arrest affidavit. Lewis, who was home at the time, also admitted to agents that he possessed and downloaded child porn, according to the affidavit.

Lang said she thought at the time that authorities had raided the wrong home. She said she knew Lewis as a “very nice,” if lonely, man, who couldn’t seem to stop talking once he got started.

Jeff Settle, 52, another neighbor, said Lewis would chat with him frequently.

“He went out of his way to be neighborly,” Settle said.

Efforts to locate Lewis’s family members were unsuccessful.

Agents did not immediately charge Lewis with any crimes after the October raid. Court records show that an arrest warrant was issued only Wednesday — a few weeks after agents again detected an IP address connected to Lewis’s home sharing child porn.

Brandon Montgomery, an ICE spokesman, said he did not know why there was no arrest immediately after the search, but that it is not unusual in child porn investigations. He said seizing suspected child porn files is often the first step in bringing criminal charges, and in some cases, agents leave suspects uncharged as they try to determine the sources of the files.

“ICE’s function is to dismantle the criminal network, not just [charge] the individual,” he said.

The agent who shot Lewis has been placed on paid administrative leave while authorities investigate the case — a normal practice in agent-involved shootings, Montgomery said. He declined to identify the agent.

Staff researcher Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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