4 Las Vegas teenagers charged with murder as adults in fatal beating of high school classmate

Four teens were charged with murder in Las Vegas in the fatal beating of their high school classmate that was recorded and shared widely on social media, prosecutors said.

Las Vegas police said multiple students participated in the Nov. 1 brawl that left 17-year-old Jonathan Lewis Jr. dead. At least eight students between the ages of 13 and 17 have been arrested so far. 

Two 16-year-olds and two 17-year-olds were charged as adults with second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit battery. The four teens charged this week will remain held without bail, but a judge Tuesday granted a joint request from prosecutors and defense attorneys to transfer them from the county jail to the juvenile detention center. 

Prosecutors decided against a first-degree murder charge because the evidence indicates the beating was not a premeditated act, according to District Attorney Steve Wolfson.

USA TODAY is not naming the students because they are juveniles.

What happened to Jonathan Lewis Jr.?

Lewis died days after a fight on Nov. 1 in an alley near Rancho High School with his classmates. Authorities said as soon as the first punch was thrown, ten people swarmed him, forced him to the ground, and began to kick, punch, and stomp on him.

Police believe the fight was over a pair of headphones and vape pen stolen from Jonathan’s friend, but once they were all in the alley, it was Jonathan who fought instead. 

After the fight, a passerby found the teenager unconscious in the alley and carried him to the school, where staff performed CPR. First responders rushed him to the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, where it was determined Jonathan suffered from “non-survivable head trauma.” 

Jonathan Lewis Sr., an electrician who lives in Austin, Texas, said his son was “a hero” who stuck up for his friend.

“That’s just the kind of person he was,” Lewis, 38, told USA TODAY. He described his son as an avid hip-hop fan who liked to make digital art.

Lewis said when he got the phone call that his son was attacked and in the hospital, he could “could barely walk.”

A makeshift memorial for a high school student lines a fence along an alleyway near Rancho High School in eastern Las Vegas on Nov. 15, 2023. Authorities arrested eight teens in connection with the beating of Jonathan Lewis Jr., who died a week after a fight over a pair of headphones and vape pen.

Police suspect 10 people involved

Videos of the incident, which police officials have called “extremely disturbing” and “void of humanity,” circulated social media and were used by investigators to identify eight of the 10 suspects. 

Last week, police and the FBI coordinated arrests of the eight students and executed search warrants at nine homes throughout Las Vegas. Authorities said clothing worn by teenagers in the video and cellphones were recovered.

The students arrested and not formally charged this week are awaiting separate hearings because they are all under the age of 16.

In Nevada, a teenager accused of murder can be charged as an adult if they were 13 or older at the time of the alleged crime. But they are entitled to a certification hearing when a family court judge weighs the evidence and the teen’s history before deciding whether they will be transferred to the adult court system.

Teens 16 or older accused of murder in Nevada can be charged as adults without a certification hearing. 

Contributing: Associated Press

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