COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The family of Donovan Lewis, a 20-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by Columbus police on Aug. 30, demanded justice and announced changes to its legal team Thursday.
At a press conference outside Columbus City Hall, the 20-year-old’s mother donned a “Justice for Donovan Lewis” shirt as the attorney representing Lewis’ family, Rex Elliott, announced that two Dayton attorneys — Michael Wright, who was represented Andre’ Hill’s family, and Robert Gresham — will join his “best team possible” to protest what they called a “sickening and shameful experience for Donovan and his family.”
“It’s our job to hold the Columbus police department accountable, and we have to make them stop this behavior, this senseless, reckless killing of unarmed individuals,” Wright said. “It might stop. It must stop, and it must stop today.”
While serving an arrest warrant, body camera footage showed that Officer Ricky Anderson, a 30-year veteran of the force, fired his gun less than one second after the door to a bedroom with Lewis inside was opened. An object that may have been a vape pen was next to Lewis, but he was unarmed and in bed.
Rebecca Duran, Lewis’ mother, spoke at one of her first public appearances Thursday, saying that her son “had the biggest heart” who was always concerned about the wellbeing of others.
“He would share the last — whether it be food, money, whatever he had — to make sure that others were protected to the best of his ability,” Duran said.
She spoke about her son’s struggles with mental health issues, and while there were a number of people devoted to helping him, some “shrugged it off as discipline rather than a true mental health problem,” she said. The night of Lewis’ death, police were serving him with an arrest warrant on domestic violence, assault and firearm charges.
“Had we been able to get more help earlier on, some of the charges we had would never have been issued,” Duran said.
But Wright said he wanted to make it clear that Lewis’ mental health issues aren’t what killed him. Lewis is dead, Wright said, because “police did not do what they were supposed to do.”
“I really wanted to be involved in this case so I’m glad Rex called me because this was exactly what we were trying to prevent, this is why we have Andre’s Law, this is why we asked for reform at the Columbus Police Department,” said Wright.
Wright helped represent the family of Andre’ Hill, 47, who was shot and killed by Columbus police officer Adam Coy while responding to a non-emergency call in Dec. 2020.
“And this could have been prevented if Columbus police department just reviews their policies — their procedures — make some changes culturally. We can prevent this from happening, they can prevent this from happening,” said Wright.
Body-camera footage showed Hill approaching Coy from an open garage door with a phone in one hand and his other hand not visible right before Coy fired, according to earlier reporting.
The lawsuit filed by Hill’s family led to a $10 million payout.
“Hill’s legal team focused on bringing reforms to policies and procedures at the Columbus Police Dept. designed to prevent the unnecessary taking of life,” the spokesperson for Lewis’ family said in an email statement.
Duran called on Columbus police to fire Officer Anderson, who is currently on paid administrative leave as the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations investigates the fatal shooting.
Joining Duran at the podium was Lewis’ brother, Tariq Stewart, who said he was pleased with where his brother “was headed” in recent weeks, calling Lewis the “most enthusiastic, hopeful, optimistic person” he knew.
“People won’t even get to see how great he could’ve been,” Stewart said. “I’m not telling you he’s perfect, but he was gonna be something no matter what.”
At a press conference where city leaders released the body-camera footage 12 hours after Lewis’ death, Columbus Division of Police Chief Elaine Bryant said she grieves with the community and urged the public to trust the state’s ability to investigate the case.
“Every day, officers are put in compromising potentially life-threatening situations in which we are required to make split-second decisions,” Columbus Division of Police Chief Elaine Bryant said at an Aug. 30 press conference. “As the chief, it is my job to hold my officers accountable, but it’s also my job to offer them support.”
Christian Valley Baptist Church, located at 3330 Scottwood Road, will have visitation for Donovan Lewis’ funeral at 11 a.m. on Saturday with the service, open to the public, scheduled to begin at 12 p.m.