The family of a 20-year-old man who was fatally shot early Tuesday morning by a veteran Columbus police officer is calling for peaceful protests in the wake of his death while also calling for change.
Donovan Lewis was shot one time by officer Ricky Anderson around 2 a.m. Tuesday morning inside the bedroom of Lewis’ apartment, in the 3200 block of Sullivant Avenue in the city’s Hilltop neighborhood.
Columbus police officers had gone to Lewis’ apartment to attempt to serve arrest warrants that he had pending related to charges of domestic violence, assault and improper handling of a firearm, which was a felony.
More:A timeline of the Columbus police shooting of Donovan Lewis
The shooting involving Lewis was the sixth shooting involving Columbus police in 2022 and the third to happen within an eight-day period in late August. None of the other shootings involving Columbus police thus far in 2022 have resulted in fatalities.
Franklin County Sheriff’s SWAT deputies fatally shot 20-year-old Pozz Striblin in June outside a Mifflin Township gas station. Striblin had been wanted in connection with a double homicide that happened in May.
Following Tuesday morning’s shooting, Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and Police Chief Elaine Bryant released body camera footage of the incident and said the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is handling the investigation of the case. Once the investigation is complete, it will be presented to a grand jury for possible indictment.
The Dispatch will continue to update this story with information about the case as we learn more.
Lawyer for officer who shot Donovan Lewis says law allows officers to be mistaken, expresses confidence in state’s investigation
In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, local defense attorney Mark Collins, who is representing Anderson, said Ohio law does not permit the consideration of hindsight.
“When we analyze police-involved shootings, we must look to the totality of the circumstances and we are expressly forbidden from using 20/20 hindsight, because unlike all of us, officers are not afforded the luxury of armchair reflection when they are faced with rapidly evolving, volatile encounters in dangerous situations,” Collins said. “Because of this, the law allows a reasonable officer to be mistaken, just as the law allows us as non-police officers to be mistaken. We are sure the investigation will be thorough and we certainly hope the process of any future legal proceedings will be more fair than what we have seen in the recent past.”
Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9 President Jeff Simpson said the union would have no further comment on the case.
In a letter to members, which The Dispatch obtained, Simpson said officers should expect increased scrutiny in the coming days and weeks “as we will see the attempt to adjudicate this incident in the public eye.”
“Remember this is a criminal investigation where the rules of law and due process apply,” he wrote. “This incident will ultimately not be tried in the court of opinion, but in the court of law.”
– Bethany Bruner
Neighbors remember Donovan Lewis, night of shooting
The apartment building along Sullivant Avenue where Lewis once lived was quiet Thursday morning.
Few cars were parked in their spaces outside.
The door to Lewis’ old apartment was bare, bereft of a letter.
Candy Adams lives in the apartment next door with one of her sons.
She wasn’t at home the night of the shooting but since then has read media reports and watched the bodycam footage police released.
Standing outside her door Thursday morning, Adams said she takes issue with how police handled the situation.
Officers should have given Lewis more time to respond to their commands, she said.
“In my opinion, the police officer deserves to be fired for what he did, and he deserves to do time,” Adams said. “Donovan didn’t have time to even react to anything. He sat up in bed and was immediately shot. And that’s wrong.”
The shooting has left Adams, who’s lived in the building for the past four months, scared of law enforcement.
She’s instructed her sons how to behave should police again be called to the building.
“They could come into the wrong apartment. Mistakes happen,” Adams said.
Some of the building’s tenants also have packed up and moved out of the complex since Tuesday, Adams said.
Her son, Matthew, lives in the apartment just down the open-air hallway.
He knew Lewis better than his mother. They met when Lewis asked him for a cigarette.
“He was an OK guy,” Matthew said. “We talked here and there about life and stuff. He said he was going to try to change his life.”
Matthew described Lewis as someone who had anger problems.
“Unfortunately, he couldn’t really control (his anger),” Matthew said.
Early Tuesday morning, Matthew watched the scene unfold from his peephole.
After hearing a gunshot, Matthew removed himself from the door and sat down on his couch.
“I said, ‘Well, he just got tased or shot. One of the two,” Matthew said.
– Monroe Trombly
In a statement issued Thursday, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the 20-year-old’s death shows the need for continued law enforcement reform.
“Donovan Lewis should be alive today, and my thoughts are with his family as they endure this unimaginable process,” Brown said in a statement. “Far too many Black men, women and children fear for their safety in their own communities from police who swear an oath to protect them.”
Brown commended the quick actions of Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and Chief Elaine Bryant in ensuring that the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation handles the case.
“Enough is enough — we must take action to enact meaningful law enforcement reform, period,” Brown said. “It is law enforcement’s job to protect and serve their communities. This is not the reality Black and brown people face every day — not when young men like Donovan can be killed in their beds.”
— Bethany Bruner
Watch (Viewer Discretion Advised):Full video: Columbus police body camera footage of Donovan Lewis shooting
Family speaks through attorney, calls Lewis’ death ‘senseless’
Calling his death “senseless,” the attorney representing the family of Donovan Lewis, who died shortly after being shot Tuesday morning by a Columbus police officer, said during a news conference Thursday that Lewis was abiding by police commands and trying to get out of bed when officer Ricky Anderson fired the fatal shot.
“There was no justification – let me be clear – no justification for officer Anderson to shoot an unarmed man trying to get out of bed as police officers were instructing him to do,” said Rex Elliott, co-founder and owner of Cooper Elliott law firm.
“Donovan was asleep before officers arrived and had no warning that CPD would burst into his apartment,” he added.
Joining Elliott at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Columbus were Lewis’ mother, father, siblings, grandmother, aunt, and close family friends. Elliott asked the reporters present to refrain from asking questions of the family, saying they are “focused on making plans to say goodbye to Donovan.”
Lewis was fatally shot around 2 a.m. Tuesday after Columbus police had gone to his apartment on the 3200 block of Sullivant Avenue in the city’s Hilltop 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 filed Aug. 10 for domestic violence and assault of his pregnant girlfriend.
Body camera footage released on Tuesday afternoon by Columbus police shows officers spent between eight to 10 minutes attempting to get someone to open the door of the apartment. Chief Elaine Bryant said two other people in the apartment were detained after they eventually opened the door, one of whom had a knife in his pocket.
“These are the faces of just a few of the many people that have had their lives altered forever because of the events of early Tuesday morning,” Elliott said.
During the news conference, Elliott showed bodycam footage released by police soon after the shooting, saying it showed “exactly what happened” that night. The footage was slowed down to the moment when Lewis was shot.
Some members of Lewis’ family looked away and covered their ears while the footage played.
Columbus police chief Elaine Bryant has said Lewis had a vape pen-type device in his hand at the time of the shooting.
“If you think officer Anderson had some justification for firing his weapon, then ask yourself why the police officer that had his weapon drawn with the clearest view of Donovan Lewis did not discharge his firearm,” Elliott said. “There can be no question that excessive, deadly force was recklessly used by officer Anderson when he shot and killed an unarmed Black man.”
Anderson shot Lewis while holding a leashed K-9 dog. While closest to the door, another officer, who bodycam footage shows the fatal police shooting, stood just to the left side of Anderson in full view of the open door.
“How many more lives are going to be lost to this type of reckless activity? How many more Black lives will be lost? How many more families like Donovan’s will need to appear in news conferenced like this one before our leaders do enough to put a stop to these barbaric killings?” Elliott said.
— Monroe Trombly
Donovan Lewis: What happened when Columbus police entered apartment
Bryant said officers then spent additional time trying to get Lewis to come out, including sending a canine into the apartment to locate where he might be. The dog barked at a closed bedroom door repeatedly, alerting officers to the presence of someone inside.
Video shows that when officers entered the apartment, officer Ricky Anderson, a 30-year veteran, holsters his firearm to put the dog back on the leash and then redraws his firearm. An officer warns that they are “gonna send the dog in” before Anderson gently pushes open the bedroom door. An officer yells “Hands!” as Lewis sits up in bed and the light from an officer’s gun shines on Lewis.
Anderson almost immediately leans into the doorway and fires a single shot, striking Lewis in the abdomen.
Bryant said Lewis had a vape pen-type device in his hand at the time of the shooting. The device can be seen in the video on the bed next to Lewis as he moans while being handcuffed behind his back by officers, who then carried him downstairs and outside to the grass, where they rendered medical aid, including CPR, 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.
Lewis’ family says they ‘will get justice for Donovan’
“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,” Lewis’ family said in a statement issued Wednesday through their attorney. “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.”
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations is handling the investigation into the shooting, as is city policy regarding shootings involving Columbus police officers in which injury or death occur.
Joyce Beatty: Columbus officer didn’t take time to assess situation before shooting
Following the release of the body camera footage, community leaders and organizations, including the NAACP Columbus chapter and the Columbus Urban League, were offering condolences to Lewis’ family and insisting on transparency in the investigation into his death.
“I am horrified to see another young, unarmed Black man killed by police in our city. In this painful loss, my heart goes out to his family,” Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, D-Columbus, said Wednesday.
“Donovan Lewis was shot by the officer less than one second after his bedroom door was opened. It appears to be clear the officer involved did not take the necessary time to assess the situation before choosing to employ deadly force,” she said.
Expert says Columbus police K-9 officer’s tactics were sound
Brian Higgins, an adjunct professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and an expert in police canine operations, told The Dispatch on Wednesday that his review of the body camera footage in the shooting of Lewis showed sound tactics by Anderson.
“He made a judgment call,” Higgins said. “He had opened the door and he was able to hold the dog with one hand on lead and fire a shot with one hand. That’s not uncommon and it depends on the circumstance.”
Higgins, who oversaw the K-9 program as police chief in Bergen County, New Jersey, and also served as safety director in that county, said police canine handlers typically undergo a minimum of one full day of training a month to maintain their certification.
“It seems as if he did everything in accordance with standard best practices today,” Higgins said. “He used the dog to lead him to the individual. There was no justification to use the dog to bite him. If you let the dog go in off-lead, there’s a good chance the dog would bite them. That would indicate to me they were not intending to use force or use as little force as possible.”
The NAACP Columbus chapter said it would “wait for the particulars” of the investigation into Lewis’ shooting.
“We demand that BCI conduct a thorough, comprehensive and immediate investigation,” the organization said in a statement. “These incidents leave behind grieving family members, unanswered questions from the community and a further divide between the citizens and the police department.”
Columbus Urban League President Stephanie Hightower said the shooting of Lewis “evokes painful, conflicting responses” and showed the reasons why the community demanded a civilian review board and inspector general in 2020.
“We understand that serving a felony warrant creates a highly volatile and dangerous situation,” Hightower said. “And yet, the body camera video is as gut-wrenching as is the fact that another Black man lost his life.”
Forum, possible protests over Columbus police shooting planned
The Columbus Urban League is planning a public forum about the shooting on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m., though the location of the event had not been identified as of Wednesday night.
In addition, social media postings indicate there may be a series of demonstrations and/or marches this weekend over Lewis’ death, including one late Friday afternoon outside Columbus Division of Police headquarters, Downtown.
For subscribers:What will Columbus’ ongoing police reform look like in 2022?
The shooting of Lewis was the third shooting in eight days involving a Columbus police officer. Ohio BCI is also investigating one of the shootings in which one person with a gun was wounded by an officer as he fled in one of the shootings. No one was hit in the third incident, so BCI declined to investigate and the city Division of Police will handle that investigation.
Chief Bryant and Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther promised transparency in the investigations into all three shootings during a city press conference Tuesday where the bodycam videos of the incidents were released and urged the public to await the findings of the investigations.
“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,” Ginther said.
Dispatch reporter Monroe Trombly contributed to this report.