September 2022

Reaction to recent Columbus police shootings has community pushing for answers

By Lu Ann Stoia

The Columbus Urban League is planning a community forum following three police-involved shootings in eight days and the release of body camera footage from those incidents.

Donovan Lewis was shot and killed by Columbus police in the early hours of Tuesday, August 30. The attorney for the family of Lewis, Rex Elliott sent a statement that read in part:

“The bodycam footage released yesterday afternoon says it all. 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. As a result of this entirely reckless behavior by a Columbus Police Officer, a family is left to grieve the loss of such a young soul.”

President and CEO Stephanie Hightower said Wednesday “our young people today are in a very vulnerable state in this city, in this country.”

“We need to really concentrate more on helping our young people who have PTSD or dealing with grief, as behavioral and emotional issues with our young people is at an all-time high,” Hightower said. “There is a lot of grief, there is a lot of trauma on top of the systemic racism that still exists in this country. This is really starting to become a perfect storm and we need to figure out as a community and as a society how do we begin to address these issues.”

Following the shootings, community leaders said many are waiting to see how the new City of Columbus Inspector General and Civilian Review Board will impact the case.

Lewis was killed as officers attempted to serve a warrant for domestic violence, assault, and improper handling of a firearm.

“What are we doing as a community to begin to address DV so that we don’t have warrants that are being issued and then there could be ugly results that then take place,” Hightower said.

Bishop Timothy Clarke is the pastor at First Church of God. Clarke has conducted services for other people who have lost their lives in police-involved shootings.

“I understand what it is like, the angst, the anger, the pain that videos like that reveal,” Clarke said. “I do also think it is important for transparency to say this is what happened and let the chips fall where they may.”

Clarke said the release of the video is pivotal.

“It is not good, it is not pleasant not enjoyable but it is in so many ways necessary and in some ways helpful,” Clarke said. “We have to reach in and draw from inner resources, strength fortitude and yes faith as we work through this process as painful as it is.”

Clarke said we must remember police are people.

“Some of them are young,” he said. “And they are scared too. That is where we have to demand better training. I think our new police chief is doing a wonderful job. I think her mere presence, both her ethnicity and her gender when she walks in the room makes a statement.”

Communications counsel Mark Weaver is a lawyer and former Ohio Assistant Attorney General. Weaver said people need to let all the facts come out before they make judgments.

“Police officers have to make very fast decisions,” he said. “If they make the wrong decisions someone might die. And so second-guessing them without all the facts is always dangerous.”

Ohio law makes body camera footage a public record with some exceptions.

“Whenever we see a video we should remember something happened before the video started and something happened after the video was over and something happened outside the view of the lens,” Weaver said.

Weaver said typically the video vindicates the actions of police.

“The city wants to show it is being transparent, he said. “That is why it releases videos. But officers know most of the time the video will show the officer did the right thing.”

As the video of the Lewis shooting is shared, Weaver said social media is a “forum of heat and not light.”

“Simply sharing a short clip of a police encounter might bring passion into play but it doesn’t necessarily bring facts into play,” Weaver said.

On Thursday at 10 a.m., Elliott and his firm are hosting a news conference at Sheraton Capital Square in downtown Columbus. Elliott will share information about the case, and members of Donovan’s family will attend.

The Urban League is planning the community forum for Saturday from 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Hightower said Mayor Andrew Ginther, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, NAACP, gang intervention specialists, and a trauma-informed specialist will be a part of the forum. Additional information will be forthcoming.

Read story on ABC6 website here

Print Friendly, PDF & Email