COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — An attorney representing the family of an unarmed 20-year-old Black man fatally shot by Columbus police chastised what he called a “reckless,” unjustified police shooting.
At a news conference Thursday, the family of Donovan Lewis stood behind their attorney, Rex Elliott, as body camera footage showed the final moments of the 20-year-old’s life. Elliott called on Columbus police to make “drastic and immediate” changes to its department, while some family members shielded their eyes and covered their ears as Lewis’ videotaped death played out beside them.
“Donovan Lewis was 20 years old at the time of his utterly senseless death,” Elliott said. “How many more lives are going to be lost to this reckless activity? How many more Black lives will be lost?”
Lewis was killed early Tuesday as Columbus police were attempting to arrest him on charges of domestic violence, assault and improper use of a firearm. Officer Ricky Anderson fired less than one second after the door to a bedroom with Lewis inside was opened.
“We can’t lose one more young kid by virtue of a police officer recklessly firing his gun into a room at 2:30 in the morning,” Elliott said.
Body camera footage made public later that day showed Lewis was moving to sit up in bed when he was shot, nothing more than a black vape pen next to him.
Anderson, a K9 officer who had his gun in one hand and was wrangling his dog with the other, has been placed on leave pending a state investigation into the shooting. Columbus police have yet to release the personnel file of Anderson, a 30-year member of the force.
Attorney Rex Elliott condemns police shooting of Donovan Lewis
The division has been led for a little over by a year by Chief Elaine Bryant, who was present when the body camera footage was released, along with Mayor Andrew Ginther. Ginther hired Bryant in response to a series of incidents involving police, including confrontations with protestors Downtown during the summer of 2020 after the death of George Floyd and the fatal shooting of Andre Hill, an unarmed Black man, by a Columbus police officer.
“Every day, officers are put in compromising potentially life-threatening situations in which we are required to make split-second decisions,” Bryant said. “As the chief, it is my job to hold my officers accountable, but it’s also my job to offer them support.”
Adam Coy, the officer who fatally shot Hill in December 2020 seconds after encountering him during a nonemergency call, was fired from the force within a week and is awaiting trial. The city reached a $10 million settlement with Hill’s family.
Although Ginther has not taken a public stance in the Lewis shooting, other politicians have. Rep. Joyce Beatty, who represents most of Columbus in Congress, said Wednesday that “it appears to be clear the officer involved did not take the necessary time to assess the situation before choosing to employ deadly force.” And on Thursday, Sen. Sherrod Brown said that minorities should feel protected by police.
“It is law enforcement’s job to protect and serve their communities,” Brown said. “This is not the reality Black and brown people face every day – not when young men like Donovan can be killed in their beds.”
The body camera footage showed police had knocked on the door to an apartment in the 3200 block of Sullivant Avenue, in Columbus’ Hilltop, for over eight minutes before someone opened it. That person and one other inside were detained as the dog was sent in to check for others. Officers, including Anderson, entered and went to a closed bedroom door in the back of the apartment, where Lewis was. It is presented in redacted form below.
Warning: Some may find this body camera footage disturbing
Lewis was wanted because, in a court filing, a woman who said she was pregnant with Lewis’ baby said she had been shoved out of a chair by Lewis and assaulted by him previously.