A man who turned his life around and dedicated himself changing the community has become a victim of the one of the things he sought to wipe out: Street violence.
The East Palo Alto-based organization Free at Last confirmed that the man fatally shot Wednesday evening at the Hillsdale Mall parking garage was their cofounder and chairman, David Lewis.
Lewis, 54, was shot once inside the mall parking garage. He died at a hospital. The motive for the shooting is unknown but police believe Lewis was targeted. The gunman escaped in a vehicle, police say, but they have not yet confirmed the make and model. Investigators are looking at surveillance video trying to get more information.
Those who worked with Lewis say his loss is a terrible blow to the community. Gerardo Barragan, the executive director of the organization, organization issued the following statement:
David was an inspiring leader and agent of change in East Palo Alto and his loss is a terrible blow to me, to this community and all of the lives he touched. Free at Last is his legacy and we are committed to ensuring his vision for every person to have a chance at a better life continues forward.
Lewis spent 17 years in the California prison system and turned his life around, ultimately using his own experience as fuel to inspire others to make something of their lives. His bio on the Free at Last site says Lewis was featured in a Bill Moyers documentary called "Circle of Recovery" was awarded the California Peace Prize in 1995 and Positive Image Award in 1992.
The non-profit organization he helped establish founded helps over 4,200 people a year, focusing it's outreach efforts on African-American men, parolees, ex-offenders and longtime addicts.