Friends describe Lawson as assertive but respectful
Nearly a week after being shot outside of his Kingsbury Grade residence, James McGeehan remains in serious condition at Washoe Medical Center. Suspect Donald Ray Lawson Jr. is in a Douglas County jail waiting for his day in court.
Ten days after a traffic incident with McGeehan on Super Bowl Sunday, Lawson allegedly vented his rage by shooting McGeehan approximately seven times with a Smith & Wesson 9 mm pistol.
Some of Lawson’s friends felt what was being described of the suspect, was uncharacteristic of Lawson. Robert Harvey, who has know Lawson 15 years, was surprised to hear that Lawson was being held as the primary suspect in the shooting.
“(My initial reaction was) complete shock, utter disbelief,” Harvey said. “This can’t be Don. I still can’t believe this has taken place. He is not the kind of person who would go out and shoot someone over something as silly as this.”
Harvey was with Lawson on the afternoon of Feb. 5, hours before the shooting occurred. Harvey said there were no signs that Lawson was planning an assault on McGeehan.
“I had spoken with (Lawson) earlier Monday,” Harvey said. “He had just helped me move into my new house. I would think, being such a good friend of his, that if he was even planning anything like this I would have heard it in his voice.”
Harvey feels that alcohol may have played a role in the early morning assault. Sources place Lawson at Nero’s in Caesars Tahoe as late as 1:30 a.m. Feb. 6. He reportedly had been drinking and was intoxicated. The shooting occurred at about 2:50 a.m. Feb. 6. Harvey said he believes Lawson went to McGeehan’s residence with the intention of slashing McGeehan’s tires.
“When alcohol comes into play, you do strange things,” Harvey said. “I’m not trying to make light of the situation Mr. McGeehan is in because it is very serious. And I have talked to Don in the past few days and he knows it, too. He knows it shouldn’t have happened.”
Lawson, who is originally from Fremont, Calif., was a U.S. Marine before moving to Lake Tahoe five years ago to snowboard and work as a bartender. Harvey describes Lawson as assertive and generally respectful of others.
“He is a very confident person, very independent,” Harvey said. “As far as toward other people, he is usually kind. He is always kind. Out of all the time I have been around him he has never shown violence toward another individual. His character is low-key. (His intention is) ‘I am not going to get in any trouble and I am not going to cause any trouble.’ “
While Lawson owns two guns, Harvey asserts that it is not his nature to use them as a tool of diplomacy.
“I can honestly say that, knowing Don for so long, pulling a gun and waving it at someone is not like him,” Harvey said. “He has a temper, but everyone has a temper to a certain extent.”
Lawson has been charged with attempted murder and is awaiting his preliminary hearing on Feb. 21.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.