Oakleaf Publix shooting: Who was the 18-year-old who shot officer?

by: Action News Jax Updated:

Friends are speaking out after an 18-year-old from Clay County killed himself after shooting a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at Publix in Oakleaf.

Clay County deputies identified Thomas Jacob Lewis as the shooter. The big question remained: What drove him over the edge?

Some of his friends gathered Wednesday in the parking lot of the Publix -- less than 24 hours after Lewis shot himself while sitting in his black BMW. 

"His mistake happened to cost his life, yes, but that doesn't make him a bad person. And anybody that ever knew him knows he wasn't a bad person," said Macie Swanhart, who identified herself as a friend. "I just want everybody to know ... Jake was a great person." 

Deputies say Lewis drove up to the officer as he was unloading groceries at the Publix on Oakleaf Plantation Parkway and fired multiple times.

He then drove off and shot himself in the Publix parking lot, officials said. Helicopter video showed Lewis' suspected car, a black BMW convertible, blocked off in the parking lot. 

The officer is in critical condition. Deputies say he was targeted because he is a law enforcement officer.

Lewis' mom sent Action News Jax a statement about her son:

"As the mother of Jake Lewis, I can only express my horror and grief at yesterday's events.  Although Jake no longer lived with me as a result of the structure and discipline that I attempted to place on him, I loved him dearly and he would still text me.  When the Clay County Sheriff's Office called me yesterday regarding his arrest warrant,  I contacted Jake immediately and begged him to turn himself in.  I would ask first for your prayers on behalf of the wounded officer and our law-enforcement community as they face danger every day.  Second, I ask for your prayers for a grieving family that will try to remember Jake from better times.  Finally if it is in your heart I ask for your prayers for the soul of my deceased son.  Thank you for your patience and privacy during this difficult time."

Clay County deputies haven’t said much about Lewis except that he had an active warrant for sale and delivery of a narcotic.

An hour before the shooting, Lewis appears to have Tweeted, “Payback time (expletive.)”

The pattern of what one may call strange social media posts didn’t start there. A few weeks ago, Lewis Tweeted, ‘Someone kill me before I turn 18.’

Last December, he wrote “I hate everybody except for like 5 people,” and two months before that, “I could care less about a long life as long as the life I lived was poppin.”

His friends left a memorial in the Oakleaf Publix parking lot near where he turned the gun on himself. They said Lewis had problems but that he was "really the sweetest person you'll ever meet." 

"He did do what he did, but you don't know what he's going through," said friend Alyse Wilson. "He had a reason. It was wrong, but you guys are downing an 18-year-old who is now dead. 

Deputies said they don’t believe there was any kind of connection between him and the agent he shot.

“We don’t know exactly what the motive is here, or why this individual,” Chief of Investigations Wayne McKinney said. “It appears to be no previous contact between these two individuals.” 

Officials say the officer needed several blood transfusions after the shooting.

Orange Park Medical Center's blood supply was depleted as a result. A blood drive in honor of the officer is being held at Orange Park Medical Center from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.