Murder conviction ‘bittersweet’ for Lenny Harris’ friends

Murder conviction ‘bittersweet’ for Lenny Harris’ friends

By Erich Wagner (File photo)

A Prince George’s man accused of the 2011 abduction and killing of local activist Lenny Harris was convicted of all charges Tuesday, including first-degree murder.

After about three hours of deliberations Tuesday morning, a Prince George’s County circuit court jury found 28-year-old Tyrone Lewis, of Fort Washington, guilty on a slew of charges, including murder, robbery and kidnapping. He is scheduled for sentencing November 1.

Harris, 53, went missing in September 2011 and was found in a 20-foot well in January 2012 after an anonymous phone tip to investigators. Police said the Alexandria activist was shot to death and dumped in the well on an abandoned Fort Washington property.

Lewis is the third man convicted in connection with the slaying. Linwood Johnson and Ivan Newman had previously pled guilty to their roles — both are awaiting sentencing — and Johnson testified against Lewis.

According to prosecutors, the three men were trying to steal enough money to bail out a friend who had been arrested. They lured Harris to a location in Alexandria in September 2011, acting interested in buying outfits from Harris’ clothing line, and then kidnapped him and demanded his ATM card and PIN number.

Later that night, the three men took Harris to the abandoned Fort Washington property, shot him in the head and eventually dropped him into the well.

In a statement, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, whose office prosecuted the case, applauded the verdict.

“I am very pleased with this verdict,” Alsobrooks said. “Mr. Lewis is a violent individual who killed Mr. Harris in cold blood after kidnapping him and forcing him to give up his ATM card and PIN number at gunpoint. There is no place for violent individuals like this in our community, and we simply will not tolerate those who commit crimes against our citizens.”

Harris was well-known in Alexandria as an advocate for minorities and the poor. Mayor Bill Euille, who described the activist as a close personal friend, said the guilty verdict was great news.

“It will never bring peace to his wife and family because of how tragic his death was, but the fact that the folks involved in that incident now have been brought to justice and prosecuted, I think that bodes very well,” Euille said. “I’ve known Lenny almost his whole life and almost my whole life, and we were very close friends. I think all of us feel a sigh of relief and are thankful that this nightmare is over.”

Jon Liss, executive director of Tenants and Workers United, said that not a day goes by that he doesn’t feel Harris’ absence.

“I go by toward Washington Park — he had a festival there every year — and there’s no festival anymore,” Liss said. “I see public housing bulldozed and destroyed, but there’s no massive uprising. Lenny did a lot to support people and keeping them out of jail, fighting for full legal rights for the incarcerated.

“It’s bittersweet. Yes, [Lewis is] guilty, and he needs to go to prison. But that doesn’t bring Lenny back or make it better.”