What 20-year-old Lewis James Little believed was a good deed ultimately led to a life-changing burden.
WRAL reports the sophomore communications major at North Carolina Central University and several of his friends were visiting the home of their childhood pal on the night of June 21, 2013, when they found the body of 25-year-old Michael Lee in the middle of an east Durham road.
"I called the police -- when none of the other guys were even thinking about it -- trying to do the right thing, and it pretty much started from there," Lewis told WRAL.
But just 20 minutes after police arrived at the scene, Lewis found himself handcuffed and eventually jailed in connection to a break-in at a home close to where Lee’s dead body was discovered. Lewis’ bond was set at $1.425 million for several charges that included burglary and kidnapping. It wasn’t until close to a month later, on July 15, that corrections officers informed Little that he was being released from jail. The Durham prosecutor investigating the case had dropped the charges against Little, offering him an apology.
"You can do good your whole life and like that, [you're in jail under] a million-dollar bond," he said. "It was kind of like a dream. I kept waking up, like, 'I can't believe I'm in here.' I kind of felt defeated."
Authorities say that a witness of the home invasion initially identified Little as one of the three men who broke into the residence. But statements given to officers eventually led officials to believe Little may have been falsely identified in the invasion.
Though the case against him was dismissed, Little says the incident remains a troubling mark that has made it difficult to find both housing and employment. And despite his good intentions at the time, he admits he wouldn’t report the dead body if he had a second chance at the night.
"I feel ashamed about it, because I don't want to be known like that. It's up there, and there's no taking it back," he said. "I felt like it was the right thing to do [by calling police]. I did, and I suffered from it."
But despite the challenges he faces as a result of the false arrest, Little says he will continue to power through the situation. "Holding onto the anger every day doesn't get you anywhere, so most definitely, I'm mad, but I still have other stuff going on," Little said. "So, I have to balance that, and keep moving forward."
The New Black Man blog also reports that Little has received some support from his fellow NCCU students as knowledge of the incident begins to grow on the campus.