Family Of Donovan Lewis Demand Accountability After Police Killing

Nick Evans, Ohio Capital Journal

A stream of Donovan Lewis’ family members and friends filed into a hotel meeting room in downtown Columbus Thursday. His mother Rebecca Duran sobbed quietly as the family’s attorney replayed the video of a Columbus police officer shooting Lewis while serving a warrant early Tuesday morning.

Doctors pronounced him dead at Grant Hospital less than an hour later.

Three shootings, eight days

“Tuesday’s fatal police shooting resulted in a tragic loss of life,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said in an emailed statement.

“Regardless of the circumstances, a mother has lost her son in the city of Columbus,” he went on. “Transparency, accountability and cooperation-these are our bedrock values, and they will inform every step forward as we uncover the facts.”

A police spokesman declined further comment noting the ongoing investigation.

The incident that led to 20-year-old Lewis’ death is one of three police shootings in the space of eight days. Last Saturday, an officer shot a seventeen-year-old during a traffic stop on Main Street, and on Monday the 22nd, an officer discharged his weapon while pursuing three suspects during a public disturbance call.

State officials with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation are leading the investigation into the first two incidents, as is standard practice when CPD shoots a resident. Because no one was hit in the third incident, CPD is handling the investigation itself.

Questions about Lewis shooting

The family has hired Rex Elliott from the law firm Cooper Elliott to handle an eventual civil case. Family members didn’t speak at the Thursday morning press conference, but Elliott raised several questions about police conduct.

“First of all, I’d like to know why in the world they are executing warrants two o’clock in the morning,” he said.

“The explanation by Chief Bryant that, ‘well, we do that because we have to be sure that they’re at home’ is nonsense,” he continued.

Elliott contends Officer Ricky Anderson was acting recklessly when he fired on Lewis — unarmed and rising from his bed. Roughly three seconds elapse between the door opening and Anderson firing. But the room was dark, and once a police flashlight lit Lewis up, Anderson pulled the trigger almost instantaneously.

“There is absolutely no way, in the timeframe between when the door was open and the gun was fired,” Elliott explained, “that Officer Anderson perceived a potential gun in his hand, got through to his brain and then reacted by shooting his weapon.”

Elliott said the family is seeking accountability. They want Anderson punished and “off the street.” He added the family has felt and appreciated the support of the community, but that they urged demonstrators to remain peaceful.

Reform?

This isn’t the first rash of officer involved shootings to roil the city of Columbus. The killings of Casey Goodson Jr. and Andre Hill just weeks apart in December 2020 helped prompt a number of reforms in the division — including firing the former chief, installing a citizen review board, and even offering buyouts to weed out officers resistant to reform.

Elliott said those efforts clearly haven’t been good enough.

“It’s a lot of talk, and not a lot of action,” Elliott argued. “Yes, Chief (Elaine) Bryant was hired to step up activity so this doesn’t happen, but here we are today. And what I’d say is whatever they’re doing, is not working.”

Since the killings of Goodson and Hill, law enforcement officers in Columbus have shot and killed five people, according to the Washington Post police shootings database. One of those incidents, the killing of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, grabbed national headlines.

There have been some tentative steps toward accountability, however. The police officer who killed Hill and the sheriff’s deputy who killed Goodson are both facing murder charges. They have both pleaded not guilty.

Former officer Adam Coy, who shot Hill, goes to trial in November. Meanwhile, former deputy Jason Meade goes to court in December — a little more than two years after he shot and killed Goodson.

Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Ohio Capital Journal maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor David DeWitt for questions: info@ohiocapitaljournal.com. Follow Ohio Capital Journal on Facebook and Twitter.

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