Attorneys and family of Donovan Lewis, an unarmed Black man who was fatally shot Aug. 30 by Columbus police officer Ricky Anderson while police were serving a warrant for his arrest, stepped to a microphone in front of the Ohio Statehouse Friday evening with an unambiguous message: Anderson should be arrested immediately.
A screenshot from a video captured by another officer’s body camera flanked the attorneys on the Statehouse’s West Plaza. The image shows the 20-year-old Lewis, his body at a 45-degree angle, rising from his bed with one hand on the mattress.
Anderson, a 30-year veteran of the Columbus Division of Police, shot Lewis in the abdomen less than a second after opening the door to his bedroom. The sergeant whose body camera captured the shooting did not fire his weapon during the incident, which occurred after 2 a.m.
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A video clip of the shooting gives investigators all the information they need, Rex Elliot, one of the attorneys representing the Lewis family, said during a press conference.
“Could there be any more clear evidence of a reckless shooting?” Elliott said. “There were no weapons in that apartment, there was no justification for the shooting, there were absolutely other means by which they could have addressed the situation, but officer Anderson chose, as a first resort, to fire a lethal weapon.”
Police were serving multiple arrest warrants for Lewis, who was wanted on a felony charge of improper handling of a firearm, a misdemeanor probation violation and misdemeanor charges filed Aug. 10 of domestic violence and assault against his pregnant girlfriend. Police arrived just after 2 a.m. Aug. 30 to serve the warrant at Lewis’ second-floor apartment on the 3200 block of Sullivant Avenue in the Hilltop.
“The day after the killing the city asked for patience while (the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation) investigated,” Elliot said. “We are here 30 days later and our patience is running out. There is no reason to drag out this investigation.”
Lewis’ mother, Rebecca Duran, said that Ohio BCI seems to be stalling.
“With Andre Hill, that officer was arrested six days afterwards,” she said, referring to the Dec. 22, 2020, death of Hill, 47, who was shot by Columbus police officer Adam Coy, who faces murder charges. “Here we are a month out (from Lewis’ death) and nothing.”
(Editor’s note: While Coy was fired six days after shooting Hill, he wasn’t indicted and arrested until more than six weeks later, on Feb. 3, 2021.)
A spokesperson for Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, whose office oversees BCI, said that a typical investigation into an officer-involved shooting takes about 400 agent hours to complete, but could not say when the Lewis investigation will conclude.
BCI will refer its findings to the Franklin County Prosecutor’s office, which then presents the case as a standard practice to a Franklin County grand jury for consideration on any criminal charges.
In a community forum at the Statehouse plaza that followed the press conference, speakers called for a series of reforms, including the end of qualified immunity, which shields police officers and other government officials from civil suits as long as they are carrying out their assigned duties.
“My father was a law enforcement officer, so I get it,” said Derrick Foward, Ohio NAACP’s 1st vice president. “I spent nights wondering if he was going to come home.”
But Foward said police will continue to kill unarmed Black men with impunity if they are not held accountable.
Columbus police have shot and killed Black men at a disproportionate rate in recent years. Black males make up 62% of those shot by Columbus officers since 2012, while Black people make up only 29% of the city’s population, The Dispatch previously reported.
All six of the people shot by Columbus police in 2021 were Black. Three of them were killed.