Lopezians gathered to honor Black lives lost as they respectfully removed memorial signs along the side of Fisherman Bay Road on Sept. 6, 2020. (Robert S. Harrison/contributed photo)

Lopezians gathered to honor Black lives lost as they respectfully removed memorial signs along the side of Fisherman Bay Road on Sept. 6, 2020. (Robert S. Harrison/contributed photo)

Lewis found guilty of reckless endangerment and malicious mischief

A Lopez Island man who said he attempted to destroy a Black Lives Matter memorial in retaliation for repeated vandalization done to his Trump 2020 sign was found guilty of two counts in San Juan County District Court.

Laverne Dwight Lewis, Jr., 79, was found guilty of one count of reckless endangerment and one count of malicious mischief in the third degree on Sept. 13. He was found not guilty of one count of reckless endangerment. Lewis’ sentencing is set for 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 22.

“I’m destroying these signs because I’m tired of it being shoved down my throat,” Lewis said in a video posted to Youtube after being charged. “You liberals destroyed my Trump sign and I’m going to teach them not to mess with Dwight Lewis.”

San Juan County deputies originally suggested Lewis be charged with two counts of assault in the second degree; two counts of reckless endangerment; one count of malicious mischief in the third degree; and one count of harassment. He was ultimately tried for only two counts of reckless endangerment and one count of malicious mischief.

The trial lasted for five days, including juror selection. Lewis was represented by Friday Harbor attorney Robert Bulloch. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Teresa Barnett represented the state. Island County Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock oversaw the trial.

The charges stem from an Aug. 12, 2020 incident on Fisherman Bay Road near Lopez Village. On that date, deputies responded to a report of malicious mischief in progress in the 1900 block of Fisherman Bay Road, where a series of Black Lives Matter memorial signs had been located since late June. The memorial was previously vandalized in late June, but no one was charged with a crime.

“That was the fourth time and, you know, I was running out of patience with this,” Lewis said during the trial. “I don’t think that a person should be censored because of his preference of who he’s voting for and so the thing is that I expressed my Constitutional right and I went up and knocked down four signs.”

Organizers created the signs in solidarity with the #SayHerName campaign, which launched in December 2014. The campaign’s goal is to bring awareness to the names and stories of Black women and girls who have been victimized by racist police, the organizers explained. It has since expanded to #SayTheirNames to encompass the names of the hundreds of unarmed Black, Indigenous and People of Color who have died due to police brutality and white supremacy.

“Every time we go by those signs, you know, they’re telling us basically we’re racist. And these people have been killed, you know, unfairly,” Lewis said during the trial. Earlier, he had noted that he is not racist and that he has a lot of Black friends.

“I felt that I had to make a statement. … I’m getting this ‘Black Lives Matter’ shoved down my throat all the time and so I went down and I mowed a few signs down to make a statement that, hey, you don’t mess with Dwight Lewis’ signs. I have a political preference and I feel that I can express it without being paintballed,” Lewis said, adding that if people care strongly about Black Lives Matter, they should go to Seattle, Portland or Chicago. “We don’t need this on Lopez because when I go to Anacortes, you know, I don’t have to put up with Black Lives Matter. When I go to Burlington or Mount Vernon, I don’t have to put up with this kind of stuff.”

Over the night of Aug. 12, 2020, the remaining signs were mowed down by an unknown culprit which led to the decision to form a group to discuss the ceremonious removal of the signs.

Responding deputies say they saw Lewis near a truck with the name of his company — Windsock Farms — on the side of the memorial, along with an orange excavator parked on a trailer. Witnesses told deputies that Lewis had reportedly used his excavator — which was equipped with a flail mower — to destroy several of the signs. When one witness stood in front of the excavator, Lewis allegedly accelerated the machine and extended the running flail mower toward the witness, causing them to move out of the way.

After Lewis reportedly destroyed another sign, an additional witness reportedly slapped the excavator and told Lewis to stop. Lewis then, allegedly, swung the mower toward the second witness and drove toward them for approximately 10-15 feet, causing that witness to also move out of the way.

A witness, at the behest of Lewis, captured the interaction on a cellphone video. The video still remains on Youtube as of this article’s publication.

Lewis reportedly told the deputy that he intended to destroy a Black Lives Matter sign every time his Trump 2020 sign was vandalized. The deputy stated in the probable cause that earlier that day, he had responded to a report of vandalism at Lewis’ house regarding the Trump sign, which had been painted over four times, according to Lewis.

The memorial signs were removed by Lopezians during a ceremony on Sept. 6, 2020.

“When this country gets to the point that you can’t express your opinion or your preference of who you want to vote for, you get canceled… All I’ve got to say is that I’m glad that I’m not going to be around here much longer,” Lewis said.