Gang shooting revealed man has evaded prosecution for years

Sunday, July 17, 2011 at 10:05pm
FinisLewis.jpg
Finis Lewis 

Fifteen minutes to 3 last Monday afternoon, as the July temperature headed to the 100-degree mark, as many as eight known gang members arrived on Albion Street in two different vehicles. In what appears to have been a planned shooting, an exchange of more than 100 rounds of gunfire from what police would later call “assault-type weapons” rang out on the street next to Hadley Park. 

According to a federal criminal complaint filed last week, the shootout began when Quinten Tyrone Smith and Finis Deandre Lewis, leaders of what the feds call the Global Gangster Crime Family in Nashville, rolled with two others onto the scene in a rented silver Chevrolet Impala that soon came to a sudden stop. 

Lewis (aka “Gangsta Bit”), Quinten Smith (aka “QT”) and another unnamed individual allegedly stepped out of the car — Lewis armed with a .357 revolver, Smith with a 9mm “MAC-style” firearm — and opened fire on the occupants of another dark-colored car, from which fire was then returned. 

After the guns quieted and the dark car sped away from the scene carrying the others involved, 33-year-old convicted felon Clarence Claybrooks lay lifeless in a yard on Albion Street, with gloves on his hands and an AK-47 at his feet.

A bullet had punctured the chest of 26-year-old convicted felon Corey L. Smith, who apparently ran from the street and into Hadley Park during the shooting. Not far from him, police found an uninjured Quinten Smith, also 26 and with a record. Police arrested Quinten Smith and Lewis. 

Though law enforcement was probably aware of all the suspects to some degree, none was more notorious than Lewis, who has plagued those on the other side of the badge for years now, allegedly circumventing the law most recently through possible witness intimidation. 

Detectives from the Metro Nashville Police Department’s North Precinct continue to work the investigation into last week’s shooting, while the Gang Unit and agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives push forward with a separate but parallel gang investigation. 

Meanwhile, police and prosecutors have another chance to take down leading players in Nashville’s gang scene. This time, home field advantage might belong to the U.S. government: Lewis and Quinten Smith face a federal criminal complaint filed Tuesday, which accuses Lewis of being a felon in possession of a weapon and Smith of possessing a weapon after being convicted of domestic violence.

To this point, though, Lewis has played the system well. Assistant District Attorney Dina Shabayek said he has long been a problem for law enforcement. Despite best efforts, she said, they haven’t gotten solid charges to stick thus far. 

“It’s been several years that he’s just been doing what he wants to do and causing chaos,” Shabayek said. 

Lt. Gordon Howey, head of Metro’s Gang Unit, characterized Lewis as a “ruthless, cold … hard individual” with no regard for incarceration. Police characterize him as a gang leader who is well-known and feared on the street, where he keeps a hand in a couple gangs. 

When police slapped bracelets on Lewis on Monday, he’d been out of jail on a $125,000 bond while awaiting trial set for February 2012 on drug and weapons charges. But his criminal history is much longer than that. 

In 2000, Lewis was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison on aggravated robbery charges but served only a fraction of that based on his limited criminal record at the time. In 2003, a grand jury indicted Lewis on charges including felony sale of a controlled substance, tampering with evidence, assault, resisting arrest, and evading arrest. All were dismissed except for a lesser charge of attempted sale of a controlled substance. 

A grand jury indicted Lewis and Quinten Smith in 2009 for the Aug. 3, 2008, shooting death of Kenneth Crawley in the J.C. Napier Public Housing Development. Based on an eyewitness report, police alleged at the time that Lewis and Smith stepped out of a truck in front of Unit 45 at University Court just after midnight and approached the 18-year-old Crawley. Lewis allegedly told Smith, “Get it over with. We’ve got to go.” Police said the witness reported seeing Quinten Smith shoot Crawley several times, killing him.

A separate grand jury indictment in February 2009 charged Lewis with the attempted first-degree murder of another man in an incident that occurred just 12 days after Crawley’s death. 

Police alleged that Lewis commented on a “recently deceased friend of the victim’s,” saying, “the victim was going to see [his friend] tonight.” Police said Lewis then shot the man several times with a shotgun, once after the victim fell to the ground. 

In court, neither of the cases, which relied heavily on eyewitness testimony, would stick. Shabayek said she’s seen no solid proof of witness intimidation. But at the outset of the investigations, eyewitnesses came forward and talked with police. Then as the trial dates approached, witnesses disappeared, drastically changed their stories or simply refused to cooperate. 

“One way or the other,” Howey said, “these witnesses were approached — and by who we don’t know — but they were approached, and then all of a sudden their stories changed or they’re uncooperative or they’re not remembering exactly the chain of events.”

From the witnesses’ perspective, “knowing Finis Lewis, knowing his background, knowing what he’s capable of doing, knowing the connections he has in some of these communities, I would probably be a little leery about going to court and testifying myself,” Howey said. 

The state had little choice but to abandon the prosecutions.

The dismissal of the attempted murder charge on May 14, 2010, unintentionally handed Lewis a get-out-of-jail-free card. He was mistakenly released on a clerical error after that charge was dropped. He still faced a first-degree murder charge for Crawley’s death at the time he was released, though that would also be abandoned in similar fashion in January of this year. 

It wasn’t until a scheduled court date nearly two weeks after his accidental release that officials noticed the mistake and began searching for Lewis. He ran free for nearly two months before members of the U.S. Marshal’s Task Force arrested him on Independence Day last year at a Days Inn on White Bridge Road. 

That foray into freedom led to a limited engagement on the Department of Justice Gang Targeting, Enforcement and Coordination Center’s most wanted list, drawing attention from the television show America’s Most Wanted

On Wednesday, Lewis again failed to appear in court, but this time it was because he was in federal custody with charges pending against him there. A detention and preliminary hearing had been set for last Friday afternoon in federal court. A new hearing date on the state bond motion was reset to July 29. 

Between the arrests made after last Monday’s brazen shootout and a broader ongoing gang investigation, law enforcement hopes running into Lewis and associates — however hard it came — provides them with a stronger prosecutorial foothold. 

“The way things are going right now,” Howey said, “let’s hope that that’s the end of his walking out amongst average, everyday folks.”  

12 Comments on this post:

By: titm on 7/18/11 at 5:13

Sounds like these dirtbags need to be dealt with the old fashon way! Put a bounty on them...Wanted dead or alive preferably dead. $10k. hey, its cheaper than what it would cost to prosecute and or jail them.

By: GuardianDevil01 on 7/18/11 at 5:46

Knowing that Monty Hall at the DA's office routinely makes deals allowing savage, wild animals to be released from their cages a few short months after conviction, who in their right mind would testify for the prosecution in a case like this? It is very sad that in order to get justice we must have the federal government try these cases due to the fact that the state of Tennessee cares nothing about public safety. All our DAs care about is their artificially inflated conviction records, attained only by allowing violent felons to plea down to lesser charges.

By: 4gold on 7/18/11 at 6:25

The police did their job over and over. The justice system has broken down miserably. Guess the best scenerio would be for police to be forced to shoot the guy down resisting arrest. Go ahead guys. We are looking the other way and no one downtown can rid us of this cancer to society. He has no plans to ever live a productinve life.

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!

By: Carol Williams on 7/18/11 at 6:35

Do these gang criminals live in public housing?

By: Moonglow1 on 7/18/11 at 11:39

Moonglow1: instead of the NRA gun lobby pushing for more "gun rights" for "law abiding citizens" they should be pushing for more and better paid police officers. However with Haslam cutting budgets except for his well paid commissioners this is what you get: Nashville run by drug dealers & vigilante gangs. If the tea party (aka the haslam administration) has its way there will be vigilante citizens and total anarchy.

By: Magnum on 7/18/11 at 3:13

Moonglow, the article not only indicates that these guys are far from unknowns to the police department, but it goes on to discuss the numerous convictions of the hero of the day in the photo. Therefore, it would seem that the issue is not tied to the resources of the police department, but rather a flawed judicial/punishment system. One more point, the article discloses that over 100 rounds of ammunition were fired from assault type weapons. Sounds like total anarchy is already here...

By: Nitzche on 7/18/11 at 5:00

do i sense a little profiling? Finis is probably Ensworth class of 2007?Maybe MBA? No way came out of MNPS, if he did, Stratford Magnet,or maybe Pearl-Cohn Magnet?

By: Radix on 7/18/11 at 6:10

LOL, Sounds like Moonglow1 is singlehandedly keeping some drug dealers in business. One of the most backwards posts I have ever seen.

By: Lovelife2011 on 7/19/11 at 6:24

First of all, the way they(the police) paint this picture is negative. The police is the biggest gang we have. They are making their own assumption of which is not true, but would want you to believe. First off, the police tried to make people lie on him (Lewis) by cutting the other persons time in jail and allowing them to be free. They also violated many rules and stuck a tape recorder in jail, which is violation of the E.C.C. regulations, by trying to get him to lie. The US Marshalls stole his money as well.

They (the police) also know that this was a setup and ambush, in which Mr. Lewis was ambushed, but why is he and the other guy (QT) the only ones arrested? Notice they are ONLY being charged with a gun. They were the victums in this case, as Lewis is the one who flagged the police down ON BEHALF ON THE INCIDENT concerning the shooting. THE POLICE IS ONLY TELLING WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO KNOW AND NOT THE ENTIRE TRUTH.

NOONE made the witness afraid, she told the truth, and as far as the robbery goes in 1998, the detective M. Ch..... made the girl L.... N.... lie and say he robbed her and three others at her house. It was supposed to have been him and another person, but he was the only one arrested???? Answer this question, how can you shoot someone in the hand at close range, with their hand in their face, without shooting them in the face? These are all lies, I have proof, the police don't want the truth out so they paint this picture, that they want everyone to believe, so should they be part of the jury, their mind is made up...You don't have to believe me look at the facts given in his file. I did!

Also, they knew when they released him the same day, and put him on America's Most Wanted to make the situation look worst than what it is. It was said that he failured to appear on a court date, which is a lie, just another way of covering themselves. Someone should investigate the system, as well as the police department...they along with the media feed nothing but lies, and it is only to cover their ass.

**P.S. they are NOT in gangs!!**

**PLEASE DON'T JUDGE BECAUSE THE POLICE IS THE MOST CORRUPTED GANG IN AMERICA**

By: Lovelife2011 on 7/19/11 at 6:30

Another thing, Finis Lewis is being charged with a gun that he didn't have....LT Howey, cut the bull and tell the truth, even your fellow officers lies and corruption...how we all try pointing the finger....why don't you talk about all of the corruption going on...within your system???

By: jpbrody on 7/19/11 at 10:24

jpbrody

This is really bad. Send in the SEALS!

By: Cookie47 on 7/20/11 at 7:44

Hey Magnum and Radix, don't expect too much from Moony. You'll be sorely disappointed.

She'd like us to think she hates guns but the truth is she's afraid of them. Guns can't think or do anything on their own but she's scared to death of them. She's also too scared to fight for stronger laws to keep criminals behind bars, choosing to instead go after the law-abiding citizens among us that carry legally.

It may be the drugs she's on or the meds she's suppose to but not taking but, I'm warning you, don't take her too seriously.