The man shot and killed by a deputy last Thursday in Lakeview Estates may have been going through bipolar disorder and may have been hallucinating the night of the shooting, according to a family member.
The family members of Nery Alfredo Lemus said they only recently found out, while going through his belongings, that Lemus was taking medication for bipolar disorder.
Family and friends say it was unexpected for Lemus to act out violently.
Robert Chavez, Lemus’s friend of seven years, said “When I heard about it, I went, ‘No way. You’re not talking about Nery.’ He doesn’t go out and cause trouble.”
Chavez described the 31-year-old landscaper as a happy, generous person. “He always helped everybody.”
Leslie Henderson, Lemus’s sister who spoke by phone from California, echoed those sentiments, describing him as a “very happy go lucky guy, very giving, generous, to a fault.” She realized over the last couple of days how many close friends Lemus had made during the seven or so years he had lived in the Atlanta area.
Henderson said her brother had been the victim of a violent home invasion about two years ago that left his arm sliced up. The perpetrators, who had also reportedly stolen his car, were reportedly never caught.
Shortly after that, Lemus lost his house to foreclosure.
Henderson said she had talked to her brother about three weeks before the shooting.
“He was not all there,” she said. “He was still very much traumatized over it. He was still talking about it like it just happened.”
Lemus had been arrested and faced charges such as DUI, public drunkenness, and driving with a suspended license in Rockdale and DeKalb County over the last three years.
The night of the shooting, Dec. 9, around 1 a.m., Lemus had showed up at the place where he was renting living space from a man in Lakeview Estates and demanded that his sister be let out. Henderson said this made no sense because he knew that sister lived in California.
“The man didn’t understand what was going on,” said Henderson. “He called the police to try to get him to calm down.”
When the deputy arrived, according to the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office report, Lemus had a two-by-four board in his hand and had reportedly come at the deputy, despite instructions to drop the board. The deputy shot and hit Lemus, who dropped the board and ran away.
The deputy "continued to give verbal commands to the suspect. The suspect then ran over and picked the board back up and started running towards" the deputy. The deputy fired and struck Lemus again, who fell in the roadway. Lemus was taken to the hospital by emergency medical personnel and declared dead.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is still investigating the incident. They were called in as part of standard procedure for officer-involved shootings at the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office. The name of the deputy has not been released.
“He died way too early, way too soon, and for no just cause. Especially when the authorities were trained for situations like that,” said Chavez. He pointed out officers had non-lethal options, like Tasers or pepper spray. “We don’t understand why go to the firearm so quickly.”
“I think there was a huge injustice,” said Henderson. “It’s so common now, officer involved shootings. Aren’t they supposed to serve and protect?"
The RCSO has experienced at least two violent incidents in the past year where perpetrators have shot at and even killed deputies in the line of duty. Deputy Brian Mahaffey was killed in May while serving a warrant for a rape and assault suspect when the suspect opened fire. In August, another deputy was temporarily held up at gunpoint and had shots fired at him at close range.
Lemus, who grew up in Guatamala but was a legal U.S. resident, had no children or wife and was the oldest sibling with two sisters and two brothers.
Friends of Nery Alfredo Lemus are holding a memorial service at the American Legion Post 77 hall on Tuesday, Dec. 21, at 5 p.m. and collecting donations to help with funeral costs. Lemus’s mother, Maria Lianez, is trying to get his body back to California, where she lives. For more information on the memorial service, call 661-703-5798.