COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – What happened to Tyre Nichols is being felt in communities across the country, including in central Ohio, where Columbus leaders and residents came together to talk about the issues surrounding Nichols’ death, including policing in the Capital City.
The first part of Monday’s conversation was mostly police leadership talking about changes they’ve made or hope to make in Columbus. Then, community members had a chance to share their thoughts with the police, both what they like and the improvements they want to see.
Community members, religious leaders, city leaders, and police discussed the death of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old beaten to death by police officers in Tennessee. The video was released late last week.
“Watching that video, I had to turn my head away,” said Brian Williams, senior pastor at Hope City House of Prayer. “Gruesome is the best word I can describe it.”
“It’s important we don’t become outraged because there’s video, but we understand this is a confirmation of the reality of the existence, Black people in this country and in this city every day, and we have to believe that reality, so it’s a system that has to be changed,” said attorney Sean Walton, who is representing the family of Casey Goodson Jr.
Pastors who organized the conversation said they’ve heard from Columbus residents who are sickened and heartbroken by what they saw in the Nichols video, saying this type of talk with police and other city leaders is needed.
“Just because we put on this uniform does not mean we’re blind to what’s going on in this community,” said Columbus Division of Police Assistant Chief LaShanna Potts. “I will tell you we watched the video and continued to talk all night about the trauma we saw.”
Much of the conversation was about what changes the current Columbus police leadership said have been made since they took over. There was also talk about accountability, a topic that caught the attention of Rebecca Duran.
“While we are meeting here because of something that happened in Tennessee, this is a conversation that should have come a long time ago,” Duran said. “My son wasn’t the first, won’t be the last, unfortunately, until we have major changes.”
Her son Donovan Lewis was shot and killed in August by Columbus police officer Ricky Anderson as he tried to serve an arrest warrant. Duran questioned Columbus Chief of Police Elaine Bryant on the progress of the case. Bryant said the case is with the grand jury and she hopes there’s movement soon. The two shared a hug after the event.
“Regardless of the case, regardless of the circumstances, she lost her child and as a mother of two young men, I can only imagine what she’s feeling or what pain or what void that has left in her heart,” Bryant said.
While police and Bryant talked about changes already made with the division, she also said there’s a lot she still wants put in place.