There she was again.
Doretha Lock-Davis was back inside a Walworth County courtroom 12 days, 18 hours and 23 minutes after she had last shared her trauma, grief and confusion over the officer-involved shooting death of her middle child, Christopher J. Davis.
After pulling two pieces of tissue paper, she told a judge, again, about the last words her son told her over the phone—he said he loved her five times.
“To explain why I’m writing this letter is overwhelming,” Lock-Davis said. “I still suffer sleepless nights and painful memories. Just to try to go to sleep brings back tears.”
Again, she hugged family members of men who knew her son but are going to prison for setting up the drug deal preceding his death.
And, again, she forgave the defendant “with no strings attached” and “no ill will.”
“The statement (that) was given here today was one of the most eloquent, profound, impactful things that I’ve heard,” said Judge Phillip Koss, who was the county’s district attorney from 1990 to 2012 before becoming a judge.
On Wednesday morning, Koss sentenced Roberto J. Juarez Nieves Jr., 29, Milwaukee, to the same sentence a different judge gave the driver in the case—four years in prison with five years extended supervision.
Juarez Nieves’ sentence, however, will run consecutive to the prison term he’s serving at the Thompson Correctional Center in Deerfield for another drug case.
District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld said Juarez Nieves set up the drug deal with a police informant who led him, Jose G. Lara—referred to Wednesday as Juarez Nieves’ brother—and Davis to the parking lot of Roma’s Ristorante and Lounge on Feb. 24, 2016.
As police closed in, Lara drove away—too close (a matter Lara disputes) to then-Deputy Juan Ortiz, who fired into the car and hit Davis, who was sitting in the passenger seat of his own car because he was afraid of driving on highways and had undergone recent surgery.
The drug bust was hastily organized, a lawsuit filed in Lock-Davis’ name contends. The pending suit that names Ortiz, now a detective at the sheriff’s office, and other police officials and municipalities says “deliberate indifference and negligence” led to her son’s death.
The lawsuit also claims officers destroyed squad-car camera video.
“I am desperately trying to heal,” Lock-Davis said Wednesday. “But it’s hindered by all the unanswered questions surrounding this issue.”
Davis, who was dating Lara’s cousin, was only there because the others needed a car. As his mom explained, “This wasn’t his lifestyle,” contrary to what some might assume from coverage of the shooting. She said he had a “gentle soul.”
Davis, of Milwaukee, died two weeks before his 22nd birthday.
“This poor boy ends up dead … just a kid,” Koss said. “Just to use his car. You didn’t have one?”
“No,” Juarez Nieves responded.
Davis wanted to be accepted by their family.
“Hear my heart,” Lock-Davis told him. “He just wanted to be loved.”
Wiedenfeld said Juarez Nieves, who pleaded guilty March 25 to conspiracy to deliver cocaine, yelled, “Go, go, go!” to Lara—something Juarez Nieves’ lawyer, David Malkus, said is not true.
The DA said what happened over cocaine was, “all so unnecessary.”
Malkus stressed his client was not being sentenced for causing Davis’ death. But Juarez Nieves is still remorseful for his actions that led to him holding a very close friend before he died.
Juarez Nieves, who already has been in prison for 3½ years, has five more remaining on his sentence before he starts his newest one, Malkus said.
He hopes to become a baker. He received certification to do so from Fox Valley Technical College.
Two prison sergeants wrote letters on behalf of Juarez Nieves—something Koss called rare.
One called him a “model inmate” and “an amazing person.” A performance evaluation for his work in the kitchen as a baker said he “works very hard” and scored him a 31 out of a possible 33 on measures of attitude, performance and initiative.
“As a retired Milwaukee County Deputy Sheriff I have seen many people go through the system,” the other letter states. “I truly believe Mr. Nieves will be successful in his endeavors and make the right choices in life.”
Speaking Wednesday, Juarez Nieves apologized to the Davis family. He spoke about what he has learned about himself while incarcerated.
“To the court, your honor, I don’t deserve anything,” he said. “But I ask for your leniency and your mercy.”
As she did at the sentencing for Lara—when she and another son, Paul, hugged and prayed with Lara and his family—Lock-Davis again recalled the last moments her son shared with her on the phone, when all she could do is wonder, “Where are you?”
She said she couldn’t protect her son.
“Mommy?” she heard him say.
“I love you, Mom.”
“Baby, I love you more.”