Shootout Erupts Between U.S. Marshals and Suspected Drug Smuggler in Queens
For one neighborhood in Queens, the otherwise peaceful evening of Tuesday, August 26 erupted into chaos when a group of U.S. Marshals entered into a shootout with assault and cocaine trafficking suspect Oswald Lewis. Lewis was wounded in his left arm, while no Marshals were injured. Lewis’ criminal charges date all the way back to 1991, with two additional drug-related convictions in 1986.
“I Swear I’ve Never Seen Cops Run Like That”
On the night of August 26, Springfield Gardens was quiet; at least until 11 P.M., when U.S. Marshals battered down the door of Oswald Lewis’ building near 144th Dr. and 175th St.
Lewis must have been expecting the ambush, because he had prepared himself with a bullet-proof vest and two semiautomatic handguns. Instead of yielding peacefully to the Marshals, who were supported by backup from additional NYPD officers, Lewis began firing.
“The guy inside just started busting shots at the cops,” says 31-year-old Aberdean Lysaith, who witnessed the shootout. “I swear I’ve never seen cops run like that and they had their guns drawn,” Lysaith adds.
“It was like a firecracker,” remembers Bertram Thomas, who lives in the neighborhood. “Pop, pop, pop, pop!”
“We were scared for our lives!” says 42-year-old Maryce Simpson, who lives across the street. “We were just trying to keep the kids’ heads down.”
One unidentified resident recalls, “To me it was like this guy was ready to kill anybody, you know what I mean, because what type of man walks around with a bulletproof vest and is not a cop? I’m glad they came and got this guy.”
While it must have been a terrifying (and completely unexpected) experience for local residents, fortunately no one was caught in the crossfire. The same cannot be said of Oswald Lewis, who stopped shooting after he was wounded in the left arm.
“I’m shot, I’m shot. Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot,” said a wounded Lewis.
“When he was on the ground crying,” remembers witness David Young, “the marshals were saying ‘man up.'”
“They dragged him out,” Lysaith says. “One of the cops stepped on his head. They disarmed him, took his bullet proof vest off and put him on the stretcher. He was bleeding like crazy.”
Lewis was rushed to Jamaica Hospital, where he is currently recovering from his injuries.
But what prompted such a dramatic confrontation?
Why Call in the U.S. Marshals?
“He was on the run for a long time,” says one police officer, “since the ’90s.”
Though a New York resident in 2014, Oswald Lewis’ criminal charges span multiple decades and hundreds of miles. He was convicted for two drug offenses in New York in 1986, but continued to accumulate new state and federal charges. Cocaine smuggling charges against Lewis date back to 1991 in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, where he was arrested in 1995. A native of Guyana in the northern part of South America, Lewis reportedly used fake names to evade police during the 1990s and beyond.
In addition to the older and more serious drug trafficking charges, Lewis was also wanted for an assault in Brooklyn.
“After over 20 years on the run as a fugitive, the U.S. Marshals in Brooklyn tracked down Lewis in about a week,” says Charles Dunne, U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of New York. “This case exemplifies the ability of the U.S. Marshals to return fugitives to justice using a combination of modern technology and traditional investigative techniques.”
Though supported by NYPD officers, the raid was led by U.S. Marshals. How are Marshals different from police officers, and why were they involved in this case?
To begin with, they are far fewer in number than police officers. The NYPD alone maintains a force in the realm of 35,000 officers, while only 94 U.S. Marshals — each appointed by either the U.S. Attorney General or the President — are employed throughout the country. Each Marshal oversees one office, with the support of approximately 4,000 Deputy Marshals.
Marshals take on a wide variety of tasks. While they are probably best known for providing courtroom security, they also protect witnesses, transport criminal suspects, and — as this story exemplifies — apprehend fugitives, like Lewis. According to their own statistics, in the 2012 fiscal year the Marshals apprehended approximately 36,300 fugitives (up 300 from 36,000 in 2006), which averages out to almost exactly 100 captures each day.
Marshals are equipped for their duties with rigorous training, and according to their website, employ “both traditional methods and sophisticated technologies for fugitive investigations, including tactical equipment, electronic surveillance and aerial surveillance.”
Lewis is scheduled to appear in court in Brooklyn this week. Needless to say, his original drug and assault charges will now be compounded by weapons possession and shooting at members of law enforcement.
If you or someone you love has been charged with drug possession, assault, or other crimes in Queens or the New York City area, it is extremely important that you speak to an attorney immediately. To set up a private consultation, call Queens criminal defense lawyer Victor Knapp, Esq., at (718) 263-9000 today. You can also contact us online.