A teenager asked a prominent Lansing Democrat for a dollar before pulling a handgun and fatally shooting him on a north Lansing street, court records indicate.
Lansing police identified the shooter as Lamar Patrick Kemp, 15, after reviewing security video that captured Kemp and two other teens in the area where Theodore “Ted” Lawson was shot in the 1100 block of North Jenison Avenue, police said in a court document.
The shooting was witnessed by one of Kemp’s companions, they said. Lawson was knocking on doors for a city council candidate.
Kemp was arraigned Wednesday on murder and weapon charges in connection with Lawson’s death. A 54A District Court judge denied bond for him pending further hearings in the case. Court records did not list an attorney for Kemp.
Ingham County Prosecutor John Dewane said he opted to charge Kemp as an adult because of the nature of the offense and the youth’s previous interactions with the court system.
“Unfortunately, this year we have experienced a number of youthful offenders illegally carrying guns and engaging in both fatal and non-fatal gun violence throughout Ingham County,” Dewane said in a news release.
“We continue to support our community partnerships to reduce and interrupt violent incidents in our community. However when individuals are driving violence and fear in our community, we will continue to utilize the legal system to promote community safety and hold these individuals responsible for their actions and the harm they have caused.”
Lawson, 63, was well-known in political circles and worked on many campaigns for Democrats locally and statewide. He was a member of Ingham County’s Board of Canvassers and served as secretary for the Ingham County Democratic Party.
Police for days had released no information about the circumstances surrounding the shooting, but Lansing City Council at-large candidate Trini Lopez Pehlivanoglu told the State Journal Monday Lawson was canvassing for her when he was killed. Lawson lived just a few blocks away and was knocking on doors at the time, she said.
Dewane confirmed her account but noted the killing does not appear to be connected to Lawson’s political activities or beliefs.
In a statement Thursday morning, Lansing Police Chief Ellery Sosebee said Kemp intended to get money from Lawson in what he described as an attempted robbery. There is no evidence indicating politics had anything to do with the shooting, he said.
Sosebee has neither corroborated nor disputed statements that Lawson was campaigning for a political candidate when he was killed.
“The senseless murder of Theodore Lawson speaks to the careless mindset of a very small section of our most violent offenders,” Sosebee said. “It is too often (that) these acts of violence are by youthful offenders with no value of consequence or accountability. I applaud Prosecutor Dewane for his firm stance on gun violence.”
According to a Lansing police affidavit that led to charges being issued, officers were called to the area shortly after 3 p.m. and found Lawson on the ground with a gunshot wound to the head. He was rushed to Sparrow, where he was pronounced dead about 4:40 p.m.
Officers tried a K-9 track, but the track ended in a populated area. A sweatshirt identified as Kemp’s was found during the track.
A surveillance camera captured Lawson leaving a driveway on North Jenison while three “subjects” walked on the opposite side of the street, a detective said in the affidavit. A person later identified as Kemp crossed the street to make contact with Lawson, and the two walked out of camera view, the detective wrote.
The video captured the sound of a gunshot and showed Kemp and two companions running south on North Jenison, out of the camera’s view.
The same three suspects were captured on video at a Family Dollar store on North Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard just minutes before the shooting, the detective wrote.
Juvenile Court officers were able to identify all three youths.
Both of Kemp’s companions that day − a 15-year-old boy and a 17-year-old boy − admitted being in the area, and one of them said he saw Kemp shoot Lawson after asking him for a dollar.
Kemp denied any involvement in the shooting, the detective said. Police recovered a .22-caliber handgun in the house where Kemp was found, and police matched it to a casing from the shooting scene, the affidavit said.
A hearing to determine whether Kemp should stand trial on the charges is tentatively set for Oct. 27.