The Death of Johnny K Lewis

Posted by Cat on September 28, 2012 at 4:50 AM

I'm hopin' that Inviz doesn't mind me speakin' out on this matter. Since she asked me to be a mod, guess this would be a good place to break out the blog post.

“I read the news today, oh boy. About a lucky man who made the grade. . .” Sostarts the Beatles song, ‘A Day in the Life’. That thought flew through my mind when I logged onto the computer at work and saw the headline about the young actor Johnny K Lewis – who portrayed Kip ‘Half Sack’ Epps during the first two seasons of Sons of Anarchy’ – had died.

Except Mr. Lewis hadn’t quite ‘made the grade’ in Hollyweird parlance. Indeed, the write up from all the news sources mention his decade long career, with minor roles in one of those ‘Alien VS Predator’ movies and in another television show before ‘SOA’. None of the write ups mentioned his work in ‘The Runaways’ nor last year’s guest starring role in one of the CBS crime shows.

I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Lewis, but while he was on Twitter, did tweet to him on occasion and got a response back. I don’t carry any grandiose ideas that we were best buds because of that. He probably didn’t know me from Adam, except as a ‘SOA’ fan who tried to be polite and supportive. Even so, it hurt my heart to find out that someone so young had gone in such a horrible way.

What hurt even more were some of the more negative things posted about him on Twitter when the initial news came out. We don’t know all the facts, and may never know them. Is it awful that he is suspected of beating his elderly landlady to death? Yes, it is. And my heart also hurts for her friends and family. But – and this is a big but that I’m throwin’ out here – SUSPECTED doesn’t mean he did it.

The latest reports indicate that police suspect that he did so during some kind of episode and aren't really, according to those same reports, persuing any further investigation. Circumstancially, he lived at the house, people reported hearing screams and the sounds of fighting, Mr. Lewis was reported having an altercation with the neighbors and a painter at the neighbor’s home. Right now, the chances are that he did do this awful thing, and that makes me mad. It just seems to me that even if there's only a one percent chance that he's innocent of the beating death, no stone should remain unturned to find the truth.

But truth is often hard to come by when things look to be true. Why should the police waste time and money seeking further information when all the pieces of the puzzle fit so well together? Hell, even the press is speculating that Mr. Lewis' irractic behavior and recent 'string' (three known incidents makes a string now!) of anti - social behavior was caused by drugs!

The reason it makes me mad is that his life has been wasted, and from what Mr. Sutter reported earlier today, apparently Mr. Lewis’ was on a downslide for some time. For all I know people might be askin' him why he didn't do somethin' if he could see it comin'. I've not been on the interwebs much today.

Havin’ seen up close the way addicted persons are, they can’t be stopped unless they WANT to stop. Mr. Sutter knows this, I know this, and many who’ve been unfortunate enough to experience it know this. Oh, you can force a person into interventions and rehab, but if their head isn’t in the right place to accept it, it’s like a plug in a dyke. Pull the plug and you’ve got a flood on your hands.

Some people have posted very nasty things about Mr. Lewis, that he deserved to die for beating the old lady. Even if you put alledgedly in front of your rant, it’s still a nasty thing to say! It’s easy for us to hiss and boo when someone who is supposed to entertain us falls off the pedestal we’ve placed them upon.

And let’s face it, we do put them on a pedestal. We watch their shows, we interact with them on social networks, we yell and scream for their attentionwhenever they’re out in public. They have basically no personal/private life and are told ‘What are you complainin’ about? We MADE you! You OWE us your life’s blood!’

It’s that being in the public eye at all times, and having hundreds of thousands of people comment on your every word, every move, every action – positively or negatively – that wears on even the strongest person. Magazines and so –called‘entertainment information’ programs report on every belch, every fart, every blemish, and every mistake the celebrity makes. Cameras are pointed in their faces and blind them; obsessed fans stalk them; their lives change because they’re recognized.

It’s obvious from the reports of recent arrests that Mr. Lewis was in a tailspin this year. And if he was supposed to be serving a 306 day sentence THIS YEAR, WTF was he doin’ out and about? Somebody messed up big time there. If he was supposed to be in rehab as opposed to jail, how in the Hell did he get away from it?

Being in jail, however, would not have cured him of whatever bothered him. If he was addicted to something that made him act out the way he did, the jail time would’ve only delayed it a few weeks/months. Unless at some time during the incarceration, he would’ve been able to get his head/mind/spirit in a place that would allow him to seek the help he needed, and therefore prevent this awful event from occurring.

The might have been is what makes me angry. The waste of two lives makes me angry. And the uncaring, unkind behavior of a relative few makes me angry. Mr. Lewis had friends, and so did his landlady. He had a family. So did his landlady. Those people are going through the most incredible pain a person can possibly go through.

Fortunately, there are a great number of people who have posted kind and caring things, despite the horror of the situation. The actors, actresses, and crew that worked so closely with him on ‘Sons of Anarchy’ can’t help but feel affected by this. Some have shared their pain with us on the social networks. Some have kept their thoughts private, and that’s their right to do so. To those who I had the chance to meet and really get to know last November, especially those I’m honored to be able to refer to as ‘my friend’, please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you for the loss, and with Mr. Lewis’ friends and family and the landlady’s friends and family. I know the pain, have felt it very intimately these last few months.

May both the victims rest in peace and find that their God truly has them in his hands and has brought them Home at last.

Categories: Sons of Anarchy Misc

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Reply DS
4:43 PM on September 28, 2012 
The big thing in all this, is that the system failed Johnny. California has cut so much from drug addiction help to mental services that no one was truly there to help him.

When you're in jail, you are just marking time. I have seen it many times and that's life in Cali. THe only way money is put into programs to help co-occurring disorders, is earmarked for women with children. Right now, i can go outside of my apartment and find at least two men who are like Johnny.
What is also bad is that the system failed the woman and cat (yes cat) he killed. Victims are mostly seen as evidence in trials. Yes, there are communities to help them but, like everything else, there is next to no money. I know she didn't die quickly and pray that her spirit moves on. The idea of her haunting that place due to the the violence committed against her.

I think it was a good idea for you to post this. We, as fans, need an outlet to talk about what happened. Johnny was apart of our tv lives for two seasons and we watched heartbroken as Chibs went to his knees in anguish seeing his sponsee dead.

I think above everything, we should see this as a lesson and not as someone's death as the lesson but us seeing that changes need to be made. The government skews it's priorities and doesn't see the basic need to help their fellow man.

In all honesty, if Johnny was sent up to Corcoran prison, there is in house treatment, most notable student is Robert Downey Jr. Even then, with Johnny's possible mental health issues he wouldn't get the full treatment. All most all of those counselors are fresh from school and are only in the prison system for the money.
Reply Cat
2:31 AM on September 29, 2012 
I know the FB boards were awash with comments, some good, some very nasty. TL finally had to put a stop to the comments due to the amount of comment - pro and anti JKL - that was goin' on.

I don't agree with that, but I do respect her decision to do so on her boards. As fans, I feel we need a place to express our shock, surprise, and our prayers for Ms. Davis, Mr. Lewis, and the kitty cat.

Yes, I read a more in depth story on the AP (Associated Press) that included gory details about the poor kitty. Though I'm against cruelty against animals and people, that doesn't make me anti JKL. If anything, I feel for his family, they tried to help him, and apparently were gettin' the run around from TIIC.

Another problem is tryin' to prove that a person is a danger to themselves and others. The Parole Officer had written that he was fearful of that, yet there is no mention that he followed up. Same for JKL's one - time lawyer. No mention of follow up.

Speakin' as one who had to ED my paranoid - schizophrenic mother several times since age 22, I can tell you that gettin' an ED (Emergency Detention) is a very difficult thing. You have to persuade the mental health community, the police, and a judge that the person is unstable and in need of that 72 hour observation period. It sucks the life out of you.

As I posted to Mr. Sutter earlier today when he mentioned how the sleazoids were makin' headlines off JKL's horrible situation, why in the Hell didn't those same people do an ED on him? Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference, then again, maybe it would have.

The thing is, we'll never know.

So feel free to say what you feel, but I'll warn you, Please don't post any may he rot in Hell posts. There's enough of that on twitter and FB. It hurts my heart that this promising young man was so out of it that he went out in such a terrible way.

Peace all y'all!
Reply DS
5:30 AM on September 29, 2012 
I read and remembered from Twitter things that John had a little girl. What's sad is that she'll grow up not knowing her dad and believing everything bad about him.

I can't speak for LA county but in Fresno County, any type of 5150 holds are 24 hours. Used to be 72, budget cuts killed that and it's only limited to restraints in a bed at the county hospital. I know LA is as fucked as we are budget wise with a revolving door at the jail.

With regards to the parole officer, (as I've been repeating) if it's anything like here it's probably over 20-50 people per officer. Stuff gets lost in the shuffle. CPS cases are just as bad and every few years you'll hear on the news of abuse to bad that a child dies and CPS knew about but didn't do anything to stop it.

As my mom says at job interviews and why she doesn't get hired, the system is broken.

The only answers we'll get is what his toxicology reports say but that's two months away. TMZ is feeding a lot to the fire on this and I've stopped going to their site.

We have a schizophrenic who lives across the street and it hurts to see her. The people who she lives with put beers in her hands and plop her in a chair. We've called to try to get her someplace where she could get help but, no money, no help.

I myself have depression. The kind that on bad days, moving is impossible. When I turned 18, my brain just blew and I spent over a week in bed barely getting up to use the bathroom and eat.

I know reports say that Johny may have been on Smiles or PCP. Yeah, one time my uncle decided he wanted to try PCP and almost murdered my father by bashing his face in and almost attacked my mom, grandmother and great grandmother. He heard the sirens and bolted. My dad lost half his teeth and couldn't eat solids for over a month. My uncle was only a few feet from me, as I was locked in a car, and his eyes. I didn't know who that man was. Sadly, I believe the reports when they said Johnny tore that cat apart. I read that and then hugged my cats.

I know a lot of personal shit but if one person can empathize and recognize and do some reaching out to their families, I'm willing to spill. I have learned to not be afraid of my mental illness. It shouldn't be some taboo subject.
Reply Cat
2:04 AM on October 1, 2012 
You and I have a lot in common, darlin'. My birth mum is a parnoid schizophrenic. Tried to help her for years, had to do three ED's (In Indiana they are 72 hours). Because she won't release any kind of info to me, the doctors/case workers refuse to discuss her treatment with me. When her illness affected my own mental health, the caseworker put me through a gret deal of guilt for it, so I had to step away. Bein' the brunt of her anger/hate/etc., was just too much to bear. I haven't seen or spoken to her in five years.

As far as Johnny's daughter, I can only hope that she might one day reach out to the fan community to find out what a wonderful person her father really was, and that the day of his death was a terrible blemish. He has many friends from SOA who knew him before SOA (sorry, can't share names), and I'm sure they'll try to do what they can.
Reply Rain
10:20 AM on October 1, 2012 
Just wanted to thank you for talking about your personal lifes like that. I really love that everybody here is so open and that everyone cares.
I think it's good to talk about problems, illnesses and stuff. I have a condition,people around here call it skin-picking, but that's not the official term, I lack the control of the impilse to scratch myself. There were times when I had about 40 wounds on my body - all small, but nor very pretty. i'm down to about 5 now, all without help, bcause it's almost impossible to find a psych-doc who knows what he's doing and who has open appointments.
You can see me here (I'm Rain on that page too).
That was a couple of years ago. I'm a lot better now.
well, what i wanted to say actually is, that people just don't care. They don't want to know the truth and stuff, they don't want to gt involved. And when nobody cares, it#s easy to get lost. So people don't get the help they need and bad things happen. So much violence could be prevented, if people would just care about each pther...
Reply Cat
12:40 PM on October 1, 2012 
Rain says...
Just wanted to thank you for talking about your personal lifes like that. I really love that everybody here is so open and that everyone cares.
I think it's good to talk about problems, illnesses and stuff. I have a condition,people around here call it skin-picking, but that's not the official term, I lack the control of the impilse to scratch myself. There were times when I had about 40 wounds on my body - all small, but nor very pretty. i'm down to about 5 now, all without help, bcause it's almost impossible to find a psych-doc who knows what he's doing and who has open appointments.
You can see me here (I'm Rain on that page too).
That was a couple of years ago. I'm a lot better now.
well, what i wanted to say actually is, that people just don't care. They don't want to know the truth and stuff, they don't want to gt involved. And when nobody cares, it#s easy to get lost. So people don't get the help they need and bad things happen. So much violence could be prevented, if people would just care about each pther...

One thing that I've found out about this community, is that we DO genuinely care for each other. Glad you're continuing to improve, darlin'.
Reply Cat
1:16 PM on October 1, 2012 
I continue to be pissed as Hell about the sordid lack of factual reportin' going' on in this sad story.

1. NBC News ran a story on the drug connection to Mr. Lewis' death, BEFORE ANY FUCKIN' TOXICOLOGY REPORT IS OUT.

2. TMZ, one of many sleazoid television/interweb mags reports that Kenny Johnson and JKL NEVER WORKED ON THE SHOW TOGETHER!
We all know that they were in the The Culling, S2.

3. Jane Velez Mitchell, a former addict herself, implies on her show Friday nite that Kurt should've done something to prevent it:
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yesterday the creator of "Sons of Anarchy," the series that Johnny Lewis once starred in, tweeted about the death and the alleged rampage. He said it was a tragic end for an extremely talented guy who unfortunately had lost his way.

But get this, Wendy Murphy, he says, "I wish I could say that I was shocked by the events. I was not."

The idea that people who work with him were not shocked by what cops say was a brutal bludgeoning death and the dismemberment of an animal, to me, that says a lot, Wendy.

MURPHY: Yes. And what it sort of makes me wonder is if everybody around him knew that this was likely to happen, why do we have a judge who could have saved him from himself and this poor elderly woman from a disgusting, brutal death not to mention the cat, how come everybody else knew but the legal system says, "This is just a guy with an addiction problem. And he`s one of those eccentric Hollywood types so this isn`t really a public safety problem"? That`s the issue, Jane. How many times have we done your show about somebody on this exact kind of drug who kills and then eats the flesh off the dead person? Right?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And let me jump in there, because I think...

MURPHY: Why aren`t the judges doing the prediction that we`re doing?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think you have to separate out addiction from violence. This guy -- violence trumps addiction. The people who were allegedly attacked by him said that, when they were trying to control him, it was like hitting him with a fly swatter. He didn`t blink. He had super human strength.

Is it any fucking wonder I got out of the news biz years ago?

Reply boomshine87
4:52 PM on October 1, 2012 
Sadly, Jonny will be old news by the end of the week. Sadly, a family have just lost their son, brother, nephew, father etc. I just hope neither of them felt much physical pain before they died.

I know that the 'system' is fucked up - it's fucked up everywhere, but there is always a choice. I say this with the upmost respect for Johnny, his friends and his family - Johnny made a choice to go down the road that he did; it is such a shame that he got so lost on the way, and that there weren't many resources to help him get back on his feet.

I hope that his little girl grows up with only great memories of her Daddy.
Reply Bunkey
6:47 PM on October 2, 2012 
I just wrote up something on Tumblr and wanted to share it here:

I have read a lot of fans reactions, or rather, their confusion as to how to react to this tragedy. Johnny Lewis portrayed a beloved SOA character that meant a lot to fans. Some have said that seasons 1 and 2 are ruined for them and they will never watch them again. Some just don't know what to feel. Sadly, this situation is not a new one to me as a fan.

I'm a professional wrestling fan. I have been for 30 years. Wrestling, specifically WWE, is ingrained in my life. I've been part of the fan community for a long time, I've met some of my best friends through fandom. Wrestling fans are a close-knit community.

When Chris Benoit inexplicably killed his wife, his seven year old son and himself five years ago, the wrestling community was in shock. No one knew how to react. WWE reacted by slowly removing all mention of him from their history. They will not show his matches or refer to him. They edit him out of historic matches. They bleep his name if mentioned by others.

Chris Benoit was an amazingly talented wrestler. His matches were phenomenal to watch. He was a talented athlete and well respected by all. Now, his matches are relegated to whatever you may find on Youtube, eBay or what may have been in your DVD collection before his death.

Fans are still divided about him. Some will say that he was a monster and deserves to be scrubbed from the annals of history, others hold him in high regard as a talented performer who did one terrible, horrible thing. And some are in the middle, divided. Some still don't know how to feel.

Like Johnny, Benoit was condemned and found guilty quickly by the police anxious to close the terrible case. He died, there was no trial, no chance for him to explain what happened. He took those secrets to the grave. The internet was rife with sensational, exploitative headlines. Some in the business who knew Benoit used the opportunity to get their names back in the headlines. There was speculation, assumptions, "investigative reporting". All the rotten things associated with modern day media. And as is the case now, there were victims whose names were lost in shuffle. And as is the case now, we forgot that there were two families in mourning. One family who lost loved ones to a horrible tragedy and one trying to cope with the evidence that someone they loved very much was responsible for it. Both men left behind their parents to suffer this pain and their children to bear the burden.

Like Johnny, Benoit had demons. After his death there was investigations as to his mental state and the possibility of brain damage from numerous concussions. His fans and peers were left behind to wonder what caused this, what brought on this madness that caused him to commit such a heinous crime. Five years later, he's still a source of controversy, pain and debate within the community.

When I watch a Chris Benoit match, I usually feel, quite simply, sad. I will marvel at his amazing skills as an athlete and the beauty and fluidity of his matches. I watch them with a sadness, knowing how his story ended. Knowing that he ended his life and two others. I don't hate him. I hate what he did. In my mind there are two Benoits. One before June 24, 2007 and one after. I understand addiction and mental illness. It's touched my life in more ways than I care to discuss. I watch Chris Benoit matches and am sad that no one knew how in crisis he was, no one could stop it, no one could help. I'm sad that his beautiful wife and young son were robbed of their lives. And I'm sad that I will never get to enjoy another Chris Benoit match again.

Johnny played Half-Sack wonderfully. I liked the character and missed him greatly on the show. When I read the reasons why Johnny asked to leave Sons of Anarchy, it makes me sad. Half-Sack had so much potential if he'd stuck it out. And maybe, had he stayed, he would have had more of a support system, being employed, and maybe things would have been different. But he didn't. He did one horrible thing that people will forever remember him for. And when I watch my Sons of Anarchy DVDs, I will watch seasons 1 and 2 with a tinge of sadness. I'll still enjoy his work, I will still acknowledge that he was a talented young man.

Like many other fans, in both cases, I wonder "why?". I wish I had an explanation. I want to understand this. But I never will. We, as fans, will never get answers.

All I can hope, as I did five years ago, is that Catherine Davis, Johnny's victim, finds peace. And that Johnny's soul finds forgiveness somehow and peace. And I pray for both families.
Reply Cat
1:51 PM on October 3, 2012 
Bunkey, that was very well written. I remember the Chris Benoit tragedy. It can be unfortunate for a person to be pigeon holed for one terrible thing done in life. Unfortunately, it's a fact of life that as they say in the Army, "one oh shit takes away from 1000 attaboys."

Boom is right; the media seems to have gone on to other things, though TMZ likes to add to the JKL coverage (the stuff from Johnny's father, especially, is heart breakin').

I guess that, like other people who have fallen from the pedestal, I prefer to remember the entire person. As one of the SOA actors said to me in private email, (I) have my memories, and no one can take them from me.

We, as fans, can look back on JKL with fondness for the character, and a twinge of saddness for happened in real life.

And so it goes.

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