The man police have arrested in the shooting of a Jamestown police officer might have been cut a break on some other charges in exchange for helping the officer in a drug investigation, Chautauqua County District Attorney James Subjack said.
Subjack said Friday that James E. Lewis Jr. was facing unrelated charges, and that, in exchange for help on those charges, he may have agreed to assist Officer David Mitchell gather information on drug activities.
Mitchell, 43, remained in critical condition in Erie County Medical Center Friday after undergoing 10 hours of surgery Thursday. Lewis, 18, also remains hospitalized there in stable condition after being shot in the stomach by Mitchell's partner after Mitchell was shot.
Lewis, of Jamestown, has been arraigned on two charges of attempted first-degree murder. He is accused of arranging a meeting with Mitchell, then shooting him in the face from point-blank range.
Subjack said the Wednesday night meeting Lewis arranged with Mitchell "may have involved some of the pending charges that have been filed, but had not yet led to the arrest of the defendant." He would not say what those charges were.
Mitchell, an Orchard Park native and 17-year veteran of the department, was an agent with the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force, and was involved with the special drug crime unit since its inception in 1991.
"He's very dedicated," said Lt. Leo Jones of the task force. "He loved working narcotics, and you know, I see him working narcotics for the rest of his life or his career."
In 1998, Lewis had a misdemeanor drug conviction in Jamestown, where he was present at a place where drugs were found. But his most serious brush with the law came in Rochester in 1997.
Subjack said Lewis was charged with robbery, assault and grand larceny following an attempted armed holdup. He was convicted of second-degree assault, a felony, and served a year in jail.
The district attorney said the demeanor of Lewis, then 16, may have prevented him from getting more lenient treatment under the state's youthful offender law.
"I do know that it's unusual, at least in this county, to have somebody charged with a Class D felony the first time and not give youthful offender status," he said.
Mitchell was sitting in an unmarked car with his partner, whom police won't identify, after arranging a 9 p.m. meeting with Lewis.
Lewis opened fire immediately after Mitchell opened the window of his car to speak with him, police said.
News Chautauqua Correspondent Terry Frank contributed to this report.