Life Sentence for Killer of Chef from Blackbird

Raheem Benson

Life with parole for gunning down Englewood chef 

The family of an Englewood chef gunned down in the street by two teenagers in 2016 told a judge on Friday that Nick Lewis’ death was tragic, senseless and a heinous crime.

They had traveled from Florida to urge Arapahoe District Court Judge Andrew Baum to impose the maximum sentence on the one who pulled the trigger, Raheem Benson.

Lewis’ former wife spoke on behalf of their son, who had just turned 8 when his father was murdered.

Lewis’  “death was unjust and senseless,” his ex-wife told the court. “These young men have permanently altered the course of (my son’s) life. Nothing can be done to right what has been done.”

Baum listened and then sentenced Benson, now 18, to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years.

“I don’t think any of your deficiencies shields you or excuses the choice you made that night,” Baum said, referencing mitigating factors the defense had raised in a previous hearing. “At some point you knew it was wrong to go out there with a gun … No one else made that choice.”

Baum added: “Your life is now the Department of Corrections.”

“Benson murdered for the mere thrill of killing another person. At any age, this can only be described as evil,” said District Attorney George Brauchler. “Colorado’s system is now set up to ensure that this cold-blooded murderer will again walk our streets, likely as early as in his 40s. We can only hope that his heart is turned away from darkness in the couple of decades he is incarcerated and we are safe from him.”

Lewis, who was 33, was a chef at Blackbird Public House in Denver. He was walking home from a convenience store Oct. 1, 2016, when he was targeted at random.

Englewood Police officers responding to reports of shots fired found Lewis lying on his back in the sidewalk in the 3000 block of South Acoma Street. It appeared he had been shot in the chest.

Lewis was pronounced dead at Swedish Medical Center; he had been shot three times and died from a wound to his heart.

Investigators found shell casings at the scene. Witnesses described a vehicle that had left the area, and various security cameras in the area had captured video.

The vehicle was traced to one stolen out of Denver on Sept. 28, 2016; Westminster police reported it was recovered during investigation of an Oct. 3, 2016, shooting. Teenagers Benson and Louis Lara-Macias were arrested in that case.

Englewood detectives were able to tie both of them to Lewis’ death and they were charged with murder.

Lewis’ youngest sibling was 11 years old when he was murdered.

She read a victim impact statement in court during Benson’s sentencing.

“There is no excuse for the defendant to use age as a cop-out for the horrific act,” the teenager told the judge. “He is a predator and Nick was his prey.”

Lara-Macias pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 21 years in the Department of Corrections, which will be suspended upon successful completion of 7 years in the Department of Corrections’ youth offender system.

Benson was convicted March 22 of first-degree felony murder, second-degree murder and attempted aggravated robbery in Lewis’ death. Chief Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Gleason and Senior Deputy District Attorney Brittany Martin prosecuted the case.

Lewis’ mother also read a statement in court.

“This murder was a concerted choice made by two evil men on a crime spree,” she said. “Nick was shot 3 times execution style – and all for what?” ...

Benson “needs to deal with the consequences of what he’s done and be held accountable.”

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