Robert John Lewis is a former Marine and an Iraq war veteran. After his Honorable Discharge in 2006, he went to work first as a private security contractor for Blackwater, and then as a salesman for Tactical Applications Group, a business selling firearms and military equipment in Jacksonville, NC. During 2008-2010, he was employed as a civilian police officer at Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, NC, where he worked alternate day and evening shifts. During day shifts, he would leave quietly in the morning around 5:30 a.m. so as not to wake his wife and son. When working the night shift, he would arrive home in the wee hours of the morning and go to sleep in the spare/bonus room that also functioned as a home office and storage area for their firearms and military gear.
On November 15, 2009, they were two weeks away from their planned move to Arizona. Two days earlier, in preparation for the move, they had started moving their furniture downstairs, among which was an entertainment center (EC). However, the EC was too large and heavy for them to carry downstairs by themselves, so they left it in the hallway until they could arrange for help.
All of the firearms Rob and Kim owned had always been stored on top of the EC in the bonus room. However, they had to leave their rifles and other firearms in the bonus room when they moved the EC because the guns were visible on top of the EC. They kept the Glock in the same place because there was an edge around the EC that kept it from view. Rob had a concealed weapon permit and sometimes carried the Glock when he was off-duty and they went out on family outings. The Glock was the only firearm they kept loaded in the house for their personal protection; the rifles were all unloaded and stayed in the bonus room. Through repeat testimonies, it has been established that the Glock has always been stored on top of the EC for the two years since it was purchased.
Rob, Kim, and Tyler had gone out together for dinner and movie the previous night, and as usual, Rob carried the Glock and returned it to its usual place on top of the EC when they got home. When Rob left for work that fateful morning on November 16, 2009, his wife Kimberly Lewis (Kim) and three-year old son, Tyler Lewis (Tyler) were still asleep.
Kim testified “that morning, I had gotten up around 7:00, because I was making phone calls, getting stuff prepared for the move.” That Tyler got up “around 8:00,” and once he got up “he came in, he asked where my husband was. I sent my husband a text because I thought it was cute. Then he ate breakfast and whatnot, and he came upstairs and was watching a video — we were watching a video, playing with a sticker book while I was in between phone calls, on my laptop.”
Tyler then asked Kim if he could go get a toy car to play with, and she agreed. Kim testified that within “10 seconds” of his leaving the bedroom, she heard a gunshot. She ran to Tyler’s room, found him on the floor, and realized that Tyler had accidentally shot himself; she then ran for her phone and called 911.
Shortly afterwards, rescue workers arrived at the house and immediately started working on Tyler. Then they carried him out to the ambulance, but Kim was not permitted to go with him.
Kim begged the officers and paramedics on scene to take her to Tyler, or to let her call Rob, but no one did; she was told to stay there and not to touch the phone. Eventually officers handed Kim a piece of paper and told her that if she signed it they would take her to Tyler. Therefore, she did; she signed it without reading or knowing the content of the paper so that someone would take her to where Tyler was. (The paper she signed was a Consent to Search form.)
When Kim arrived at the hospital, she learned that Tyler had died. The coroner concluded that the cause of death was an accidental gunshot wound to the head.
In January 2010, Rob was charged with the following:
- Possession of a weapon of mass death and destruction
- Involuntary manslaughter
- Improper storage of a firearm
- Contributing to the delinquency of a minor
Over the course of the two trials, Rob was convicted of the first three, and acquitted of the last. Appeals for both trials were handled by the appellate defenders office and both have been denied.