A 24-year-old man from Carver County, Minnesota said he feared for his life when he shot and killed an unarmed man following a minor car accident and dispute on the highway.
Anthony J. Trifiletti, of Watertown, Minn., has been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 39-year-old Douglas C. Lewis. Trifiletti is currently in jail in lieu of a $1 million bail.
Trifiletti told police that though Lewis was reaching for a gun in his waistband as he came towards him. Trifiletti grabbed a handgun he had in his glove box and fired several shots at Lewis, hitting him four times.
According to the criminal complaint:
Officers responded to the area of Hwy. 61 and Burns Avenue on St. Paul’s East Side just before 9:30 p.m. on a report of a shooting. Upon arrival, they found bystanders hunched over a wounded man in the street providing aid. No weapons were found on him.
Paramedics transported the victim to Regions Hospital, where he died a short time later in surgery.
Trifiletti told investigators the encounter started when a silver Ford bumped his pickup truck from behind. Both vehicles pulled over onto Burns Avenue after the minor collision. Trifiletti says he took photos fo the damage and requested Lewis’ insurance information. According to Trifiletti, that is when things quickly escalated into shouting.
Trifilette and his friend both claim they heard Lewis say, “I’m GD,” an apparent reference to a membership in a gang called the Gangster Disciples. He went on to tell investigators that he and Lewis walked back to their vehicles and began to pull away. Trifiletti says he “unintentionally” followed behind Lewis’ car and Lewis parked his car, jumped out, and approached his pickup. He claimed that Lewis was reaching under his shirt as he appoached his pickup. According to the police report, Trifiletti pulled his gun out and fired four times from about 10 feet away. He later told police that he “thought he was going to die and was afraid for his life,” according to court records.
But a young couple who provided first aid to Lewis as Trifiletti fled the scen say they witnessed the encounter never reported hearing Lewis say “I’m GD” and said Lewis did not appear to have a gun. They provided first aid to Lewis as Trifiletti fled the scene. He returned minutes later and surrendered to police after his father advised him to over the phone.
Detectives asked Trifiletti if he could have avoided the shooting by simply driving away or refusing to get out of his truck. Trifiletti responded that he “didn’t think that was an option” because a car prevented him from backing out and Lewis was already so close.
Trifiletti’s criminal history includes a DWI conviction, but no violent offenses.
Lewis’ sister believes Trifiletti perceived Lewis as a threat because of his race and is now claiming self-defense as an excuse.
“White people can get away with killing a black man by saying they were afraid,” Valerie Lewis said. “He has brought great pain to my family.”
Lewis’ family and friends told the Star Tribune they can’t comprehend how the shooting could be characterized as self-defense. The father of four was described as a hardworking family man who was not aggressive.
“It didn’t have to end that way,” longtime friend Tawanda Johnson said at his Sunday afternoon memorial. “He didn’t deserve that.”