Former Opelika High star athlete recovering after allegedly firing first during officer-involved shooting

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AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – We are learning more about the Opelika man involved in the Sunday night officer-involved shooting in Auburn. Investigators say the search for 20-year-old Justin Lewis began as a missing person report, leading to Lewis allegedly firing shots at law enforcement, who returned fire and injured him. The incident happened near Town Creek Park along South Gay Street and East University Drive.

Monday night, Lewis remained at a Columbus hospital recovering as the Lee County District Attorney’s Office considered possible charges after the Sunday night shooting.

The tense situation began Sunday afternoon when loved ones Lewis posted his picture and a plea for help on social media, saying he was missing. Investigators say around 8:15 Sunday night; Lewis was located at Town Creek Park in Auburn.

“While speaking with officers, Lewis started to flee on foot. While fleeing, Lewis produced a handgun and shot at officers. Lewis was reported as a missing, endangered, and possibly armed person through the Opelika Police Department,” said Assitant Police Chief Dr. Clarence Stewart in a statement.

Law enforcement agencies converged on the scene as fire and EMS stood ready. Several alerts broadcasted across Auburn, and nearby residents were urged to stay inside as police looked for Lewis in the woods near the park. Lewis was located three hours later at the park’s entrance along East University Drive.

“Lewis shot at officers a second time, which prompted them to return fire, striking him. The Auburn Department of Public Safety administered first aid and provided medical assistance to Lewis in an effort to stabilize him before he was transported to Piedmont Hospital in Columbus, GA, where he is listed in stable condition,” said Stewart.

Law enforcement officers were not injured in the incident.

Meanwhile, on social media, Lewis’s family and friends describe him as a respectful and kind person, who is not violent, and struggling with stress. Lewis is a former standout football cornerback from Opelika High Class of 2018 and played football with Massachusetts, Minutemen.
News 3 spoke with Lewis the day he signed.

“I just went up there to visit; they treated me like family. I loved the coaches and the teammates; everything was just amazing,” said Lewis in the archived interview with WRBL.

Auburn police aren’t commenting further on the incident as ALEA and Opelika Police are investigating.

Late Monday afternoon, Lee County District Attorney Pro Tem Jessica Ventiere released the following statement detailing the events, and the role of the District Attorney’s Office moving forward.

On June 6th, 2021, officers with the Auburn Police Division (APD) responded to Town Creek Park regarding a person believed to be Justin Tearrius Lewis, who was the subject of a missing, endangered, and possibly armed person report.  The contact with Lewis resulted in shots being fired at the APD officers.  An extensive search for Lewis followed.  Lewis was eventually taken into custody.  However, before he could be detained, Lewis fired at officers again prompting Law Enforcement to return fire.  Lewis was struck, and emergency personnel immediately rendered medical aid.  Lewis was transported to Piedmont Medical Center in Columbus, Georgia, and is reported to be in stable condition. 

Immediately following the events of June 6th, 2021, involving the Auburn Police Division (APD) and Justin Tearrius Lewis, APD notified and requested the assistance of the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation (SBI).  SBI Investigators have elected to treat the events of June 6th as two separate investigations.  SBI will lead the investigation into the shooting of Lewis by law enforcement.  On the recommendation of SBI, Opelika Police Department Investigators will investigate Lewis’ actions towards the Auburn Officers in Town Creek Park.    The District Attorney’s Office will assist and advise on any criminal issues that may arise out of either of these investigations.  Both agencies will present their cases to the District Attorney’s Office for review and presentation to a Lee County Grand Jury. 

The State Bureau of Investigation, Auburn Police Division, Opelika Police Department, and the District Attorney’s Office are committed to ensuring that a professional and impartial review of the evidence will be conducted.    

–Jessica Ventiere
Lee County District Attorney Pro Tem

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