CHESTER COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) — Eyewitness News has obtained exclusive video of possible misconduct involving law enforcement officers in the Chester County Regional Emergency Response Team during a barricade situation on Christmas Day 2018. The police body camera video recorded the voices of several officers joking about a man whom his family said was suicidal during the hours-long standoff in a Downingtown home.
The family of Nathan Lewis, a former National Guardsman who also served in Iraq, told police he was suicidal and that he had locked himself inside of the home. His wife had recently asked for a separation.
The Chester County District Attorney’s Office claimed the SWAT team peacefully ended the situation after officers sang “White Christmas,” which was one of Lewis’ demands.
But the body camera audio reveals what law enforcement officers said about Lewis behind the scenes.
After hearing Lewis connected with his wife over the phone, one officer said, “He’ll just kill himself and get it over with.”
The Lewis’ attorney Lauren Wimmer identified this officer as Detective Andy Trautmann of the Downingtown Police Department and deputy commander of the operation during an interview with Eyewitness News on Friday.
A second, unidentified officer responded off camera, “Tell him to just do it in front of the window.”
Another unidentified voice said, “So we can confirm it.”
“Are you another one of those unlucky bastards who tries to kill themselves and it doesn’t work? God, please don’t. I don’t want to work hard this morning,” an officer said.
Another unidentified officer joked about Lewis firing at police while his wife was on the phone with him, speaking from Lewis’ perspective, “I can’t put my gun down ’til I’m out of bullets,” the officer mocked. “Still have some shooting to do, baby. I’ll call you back when I’m done shooting at him.”
In a statement, Downingtown Police Chief Howard Holland said that Trautmann was the only Borough police officer heard on the recording. Holland said the comment was made in concern after Lewis’ wife was placed on the phone to talk to him.
“Having individuals such as family members or religious leaders injected into discussions can many times serve as a trigger for a person to harm themselves. That was the concern here. Likewise, the officer was not advocating that the suspect simply kill or harm himself, nor did the officer suggest that the suspect should do so,” Holland said.
“There are plenty of good cops but the ones who are calico, cold and lack empathy, which is exactly what you have here, need to be removed,” Wimmer said.
Eyewitness News was in Downingtown and found bullet holes on the sides of an armored police vehicle, a civilian’s vehicle and a nearby home. At the time, the Chester County District Attorney’s Office said the suspect used a rifle to fire 20 shots at officers during a nine-hour standoff. Lewis eventually suffered a graze wound to the head, but he came out peacefully.
Lewis’ family believes the officers aggravated the situation.
“They escalated the situation. They did not give him help and they did not have that agenda – to get help or deescalate,” said his mother Sandra Lewis.
His family shared the police body camera video exclusively with Eyewitness News.
Lewis has been in jail for the past year and a half on several attempted murder charges. It’s not clear what, if any, mental health help he has received.
Lewis’ family is calling for Detective Trautmann to be fired over the comments and for Lewis to receive mental health services.
The Chester County District Attorney’s Office said it cannot comment due to a pending gag order on the case.