“At this time, it is critical that video of last night’s shooting and all available facts be shared in the interests of full transparency,” the Columbus City Council Speaker said. Shannon Hardin said in a tweet which included the video and linked to a local news article about the incident. The state Bureau of Criminal Investigation is conducting an independent investigation, he said, and could turn evidence over to a grand jury.
Columbus police, the mayor’s office and the state attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A police department press release identified the officer who shot Lewis as Ricky Anderson, who has been with the force for 30 years and is assigned to the canine unit.
“Donovan Lewis lost his life. As a parent, you know, I sympathize and mourn his mother,” Police Chief Elaine Bryant said at the press conference. “I mourn with our community, but we will allow this investigation to take place.”
Lewis’ family wiped away tears at a press conference on Thursday as their lawyer, Rex Elliott, described the officer’s actions as reckless and inexcusable. He said there was “no doubt that the video tells all of us, each one of us, exactly what happened in the early morning hours of August 30”.
In the video, officers repeatedly knock on the apartment door and identify themselves before two men come out and are handcuffed. The police then stand at the door with guns pointed and loudly announce that they will send a dog.
“Columbus Police. If you’re inside, make yourself known,” an officer says. Off-camera, a man can be heard saying, “They’re sleeping.” The officer repeats, “Get out. Get out now.
An officer then follows a police dog to Lewis’ room and opens the door. Immediately after a light illuminates Lewis propped up on his mattress, Anderson fires. As Lewis writhes and moans in bed, he is told to “crawl” out of the room and stop resisting arrest. He was handcuffed to the bed and died in hospital a short time later.
“Police shot and killed Donovan Lewis while he was in one of the most vulnerable places a person can be – his bed. As the investigation unfolds, some may point to the fact that police were attempting to execute a warrant when they shot Mr Lewis, as if to suggest an alleged offense warrants immediate execution,” Kelly Sampson, director of racial justice at the anti-gun violence organization Brady, said in a statement.
Elliott, the lawyer for the Lewis family, questioned why the police chose to execute the warrant in the middle of the night.
“I think all of us in this room probably had parents telling us nothing good happens at 2 a.m.,” he said. “Chief Bryant’s explanation that ‘well, we’re doing this because we need to be sure they’re home,’ is nonsense. The reality is that felony warrants are executed every day during the day.
The murder is the latest instance of an unarmed black American being shot dead by police. Black Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans, according to a study 2019 by Northwestern University. The numbers are even starker in Ohio, where blacks are 4.5 times more likely to be killed by the police than white people.
In December 2020, Andre Hill, a 47-year-old unarmed black man, was shot four times by a Columbus police officer as he left a friend’s house. His family received a $10 million settlement from the city. Last year, an officer shot dead Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old black girl, outside her home. The officer was cleared of foul play after an investigation.
Lewis’ murder was the third police shooting in the city in the past week, according to the Columbus Urban League. The organization called for a community forum on Saturday to discuss the incident.
“Yesterday’s shooting elicits painful and contradictory responses. We understand that serving an arrest warrant creates a very volatile and dangerous situation. And yet, the body camera video is as heartbreaking as the fact that another black man lost his life,” Stephanie Hightower, president of the group, said in a statement. “Regardless of the final conclusion, our community deserves an independent, thorough and transparent investigation by all appropriate entities.”
Lewis was “a typical 20-year-old kid” with a loving family and a huge circle of friends, Elliott said. He had “challenges in life, but he was overall a very good person and very much loved by the people behind me and others,” the lawyer said.
He called for accountability and change.
“As a city, as a community, as human beings, we should be outraged by the events of Tuesday morning, and each of us should demand immediate reform,” Elliott said. “So not even one more life – and certainly not one more young life – is taken like this.”