COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — There was no justification for a Columbus police officer to fatally shoot a man lying on his bed while offers tried to serve warrants, a lawyer representing the slain man’s family said Thursday as he demanded immediate changes to policing in the city and promised a lawsuit.
Attorney Rex Elliott questioned the speed of the shooting, which appears in bodycam footage to happen within a second or less of Officer Ricky Anderson opening the door to a bedroom where Donovan Lewis slept. Elliott made the point in criticizing suggestions by the police chief that Lewis had something in his hand when he was shot. No weapon was found.
“There is absolutely no way in the timeframe between when the door was opened and the gun was fired that Officer Anderson perceived a potential gun in his hand, got through to his brain, and then reacted by shooting his weapon,” Elliott said.
Elliott spoke at a press event attended by multiple members of Lewis’ family. “How many more lives are going to be lost to this type of reckless activity? How many more young Black lives will be lost?” he said.
“How many more families like Donovan’s will need to appear at news conferences like this one before our leaders do enough to put a stop to these barbaric killings?” Elliott said.
Lewis, 20, died at a hospital following the shooting early Tuesday morning. Columbus police say officers had gone to the apartment around 2 a.m. to arrest Lewis on multiple warrants including domestic violence, assault and felony improper handling of a firearm. Lewis was Black and the officers were white.
Police took two other men in the apartment into custody without incident. A police dog was unleashed in the apartment during the search.
Police bodycam footage shows Officer Anderson opening a bedroom door in an apartment and in a second or less shooting Lewis, who was in bed. Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant has said Lewis appeared to be holding a vape pen before he was shot, a notion disputed by Elliott.
Bryant has not addressed whether police believed the device was a weapon, a determination that will come during the probe by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Anderson has been placed on leave under city procedure. A message was left with the police union representing Anderson.
In bodycam footage, Anderson is seen after the shooting raising a hand in demonstration to another officer and saying Lewis lifted his hand “like this.”
Elliott disputed this version of events, saying it’s unclear from bodycam footage if Lewis was holding anything. He said Anderson shot well before he could have perceived a threat.
Elliott also questioned the need for an early-morning operation. “The reality is that felony warrants are executed every day in daylight hours,” he said.
Bryant has said the city is committed to holding officers responsible if there was any wrongdoing but the state investigation needs to play out.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, who hired Bryant last year, has said that “regardless of the circumstances, a mother has lost her son in the city of Columbus.”
The U.S. Justice Department agreed in 2021 to review Columbus police department practices after a series of fatal police shootings of Black people — including the April 2021 killing of 16-year-old Ma’Kiah Bryant — and the city’s response to 2020 racial injustice protests.
In addition, a three-year police contract approved last year provided $200,000 buyouts for up to 100 officers with at least 25 years of experience, with a goal of clearing the decks of employees who might not be on board with the department’s new direction.
“If you’re going to police in the city of Columbus, you have to buy into the vision and leadership of Chief Bryant around change and reform,” Ginther said at the time.
Elliott acknowledged these actions but said it’s not enough.
“Whatever they’re doing, it’s not working,” he said.
Elliott said he plans a civil lawsuit in the future against Anderson and the city.
In May 2021, Columbus reached a $10 million settlement with the family of Andre Hill, shot and killed in December 2020 as he emerged from a garage holding his cellphone. Officer Adam Coy has pleaded not guilty to murder charges and is set for trial in November.
In December, the city agreed to pay $5.75 million to people injured during the 2020 racial injustice and police brutality protests.