People who heard the yells of a boy shouting for help in a Portland, Oregon building led to the arrest Sunday evening of a basketball coach on assault and kidnap accusations. Police were dispatched about 5:40 p.m. to an apartment after neighbor John Blair heard a boy yelling, “Help me, get me, help me get me out, let me go.”
Blair said he found the 13-year-old boy wearing only his underwear and “screaming for his life.” “I asked Leslie what was going on. He said, ‘I’m just having a spat with my friend and I said it looks more than that,’” described Blair.
Blair said the child continued to lunge towards the door and that’s when Lewis grabbed the boy by the neck and pulled him back into the apartment. When officers arrived, a man told them he saw a boy wearing only underwear trying to run from an apartment, and then a man ran up to the boy, grabbed him by the neck and pulled him back in, according to court documents obtained.
The officers went to the unit pointed out by a witness and knocked on the door. The affidavit of probable cause said that Leslie Lewis opened the door only slightly but an officer saw a boy inside, nearly naked and trembling.
Lewis was arrested and detectives from the county child abuse team took over the investigation. The child, 13, was taken safely from the apartment. He did not suffer serious injuries. The boy told investigators that Lewis had whipped him with a belt and photographed him naked.
He said he tried to escape multiple times but Lewis always caught him. Lewis, 54, faces several charges, including first-degree kidnapping, first-degree criminal mistreatment, using a child in display of sexually explicit content, and interfering with a making a police report.
Lewis has a long criminal record that dates back to 1984 and includes felony theft, but no other sex abuse charges. Lewis reportedly coaches in a program called “Above the Rim Basketball League” in Portland.
The victim told investigators that’s how they met before Lewis invited him to his apartment. Police worry other children may be victims. The web site for the “Above the Rim Project” states that the program was designed to help youth rise above the daily challenges of succeeding in life on and off the court.
It says that community leaders across the country are carefully selected to work with young, talented basketball players. There is no information about Lewis on the site, nor any Portland affiliate of the organization.