September 2022

Columbus Urban League plans Saturday forum after fatal police shooting of Donovan Lewis

Bethany Bruner
The Columbus Dispatch

Community organizations asked for a transparent investigation on Wednesday, a day after Columbus police released body camera footage of a fatal police shooting that occurred on Tuesday morning — as well as two other recent shootings.

The Columbus Urban League is planning a public forum Saturday following the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Donovan Lewis by Columbus police officer Ricky Anderson early Tuesday morning as warrants for Lewis’ arrest on felony and other charges were being served.

The details of the forum have not yet been finalized, but Urban League President Stephanie Hightower said the shooting of Lewis — the third shooting in eight days involving a Columbus police officer — showed the reasons why the community demanded a civilian review board and inspector general in 2020.

“Yesterday’s shooting evokes painful, conflicting responses,” Hightower said. “We understand that serving a felony warrant creates a highly volatile and dangerous situation. And yet, the body camera video is as gut-wrenching as is the fact that another Black man lost his life.”

The family of Lewis released a statement late Wednesday, saying the video revealed the truth of what happened.

“In literally the blink of an eye, a Columbus Police Officer shot and killed Donovan Lewis, an unarmed young Black man who was alone in his bed in the middle of the night,” the statement said. “Frame by frame, the video reveals the truth — three white officers accompanied by an aggressive K9 dog shot an unarmed 20-year-old in cold blood as he sat up in his bed in compliance with police commands.”

The statement said Lewis’ family is grieving and asking for peaceful support.

“Rest assured, we will get justice for Donovan and do everything in our power to stop these senseless killings,” the family said. “There cannot be one more young Black life taken this way.”

Lewis’ family is expected to speak publicly at a press conference on Thursday morning.

Donovan Lewis shooting: Columbus police video prompts community response

Hightower is one of several community leaders who reacted following the release of body camera footage from officers at the scene of the shooting.

Lewis was fatally shot around 2 a.m. Tuesday after Columbus police had gone to his apartment on the 3200 block of Sullivant Avenue to attempt to arrest him on multiple warrants. Court records show Lewis was wanted on a felony charge of improper handling of a firearm, as well as a misdemeanor probation violation and misdemeanor charges of domestic violence and assault filed Aug. 10 in connection with Lewis’ girlfriend, who is pregnant.

Watch (Viewer Discretion Advised): Full video: Columbus police body camera footage of Donovan Lewis shooting

Body camera footage released on Tuesday afternoon by Columbus police shows K-9 officer Ricky Anderson at Lewis’ bedroom door. Officers had spent between eight to 10 minutes attempting to get someone to open the door of the apartment, Chief Elaine Bryant said, and detained two other people in the apartment after they eventually opened the door.

Bryant said officers then spent additional time trying to get Lewis to come out, including sending a canine into the apartment. The dog barked at the closed bedroom door repeatedly, alerting officers to the presence of someone inside.

Video shows that when officers entered the apartment, Anderson holsters his firearm to put the dog back on the leash and then redraws his firearm before opening the bedroom door. Another officer yells “Hands!” as Lewis sits up in bed and the light from that officer’s gun shines on Lewis.

Anderson almost immediately fires a single shot, striking Lewis in the abdomen.

Lewis had what Bryant described as a vape pen-type device in his hand at the time of the shooting.

Police carried Lewis out of the apartment to the grassy area in front of the building, providing CPR and other first aid for the nearly five minutes that elapsed before paramedics arrived. Lewis was taken to OhioHealth Grant Medical Center, where he died at 3:19 a.m. Tuesday.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is handling the investigation of the case, as is city policy regarding shootings involving Columbus police officers in which injury or death occur.

Read about the body camera:Columbus police release body camera footage of fatal police shooting in the Hilltop

“We’re committed to full transparency, to sharing as much as we can as quickly as we are able do so and we’re committed to holding officers accountable if there was any wrongdoing,” Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said Tuesday.

Following the release of the body camera footage, community leaders began weighing in and offering condolences to Lewis’ family.

“As always, the Columbus NAACP will wait for the particulars of the shooting,” the organization said in a statement. “We demand that BCI conduct a thorough, comprehensive and immediate investigation. These incidents leave behind grieving family members, unanswered questions from the community and a further divide between the citizens and the police department.”

For subscribers:What will Columbus’ ongoing police reform look like in 2022?

Expert says K-9 officer’s tactics were sound

An expert in police canine operations said Wednesday that his review of the body-worn camera footage released Tuesday afternoon showed sound tactics by Anderson.

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