COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Nearly one year after a Columbus police officer fatally shot an unarmed Black man in bed, a grand jury indicted that officer on murder.
Ricky Anderson has been charged with murder and reckless homicide in the death of Donovan Lewis in the Hilltop last August and will be arraigned on Monday. The charges come eight months after special prosecutors announced it would go to a grand jury. Read the indictment.
Anderson, a former K-9 officer, shot Lewis in the abdomen within a second of opening the door to an apartment bedroom, where the 20-year-old was sitting up in bed.
“Bottom line is, he should still be here and I’m going to be grieving for the rest of my life,” said Rebecca Duran, Lewis’ mother, during a press conference on Friday. “We still feel like it was yesterday. I want [Anderson] to see the people who are directly affected by actions.”
Rex Elliott, attorney for Lewis’ family, said during Friday’s conference the indictment is the first step in the process “to finally hold accountable a police officer who took a young life.”
“The reality is that there is a different justice system for citizens and a different justice system for police officers, this never should have taken this long,” said Elliott. “Unfortunately, the length of time that it has taken to indict a police officer here, it causes us all to distrust the process.”
Mark Collins and Kaitlyn Stephens, Anderson’s attorneys, said in a statement they were anticipating the indictment and claimed the grand jury in the case does not have access to the “niche instructions” that governed police, like Anderson, to use deadly force.
“This case is not about if Ricky Anderson made the decision to use deadly force, but why he made the decision to use deadly force,” the statement read. “As we progress through litigation, the evidence will show that it was because he was justified in doing so.”
Anderson’s first court appearance is scheduled for Monday afternoon.
In the apartment that night
Several Columbus police officers, including Anderson, went to an apartment building in the 3200 block of Sullivant Avenue to serve Lewis an arrest warrant. Once in the apartment, the police dog began barking at a bedroom door in the back of the unit. Anderson and another officer walked to that door, guns drawn, and prepared to open it.
Body camera footage showed Anderson shot Lewis within a second of opening the bedroom door, while he was wrangling the K-9. The Franklin County Coroner determined Lewis died within minutes of being shot.
Officers stood outside Lewis’ bedroom, commanding him to show his hands and “crawl out here,” the footage showed. About 30 seconds after Anderson shot Lewis, the officers entered the room to handcuff him, telling him to “stop resisting” in the process.
Body camera footage showed that officers waited a minute before calling for paramedics and approaching Lewis. Officers then carried Lewis down the apartment stairs, at one point dropping Lewis’ upper body, before laying him on the grass outside and rendering aid nearly four minutes after he was shot.
Lewis was facing charges of improperly handling a firearm, assault, and domestic violence.
‘I’m tired of being quiet’
In the months since Lewis’ death, his family has called – in person and in court filings – for Anderson to be held responsible. Last October, Lewis’ mother and an attorney for the family said in an interview with NBC4 that Anderson and the other officers violated Andre’s Law by not immediately rendering aid – and by moving Lewis’ body when he was critically injured.
“My patience is running thin,” Lewis’ mother, Rebecca Duran, said at the time. “I’m tired of being quiet. I’m tired of waiting for their due process because the ultimate answer is he didn’t get his.”
In December, Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack announced that a grand jury would decide whether to criminally charge Anderson in Lewis’ death. More than two months later, after no update from special prosecutors H. Tim Merkle and Gary Shroyer, Lewis’ family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Anderson and the other officers with him in Lewis’ apartment.
“Many, many precious minutes went by before aid was administered to this young man as his life was rapidly drifting away,” Rex Elliott, the attorney representing Lewis’ family in the civil suit, said at a February press conference.
Civil cases are normally stayed during criminal proceedings, but a Franklin County judge ruled in June that, in the absence of a grand jury indictment, the lawsuit could proceed. With the criminal charges filed against Anderson, the civil suit will likely be paused.
A longtime Columbus police officer leaves the force
Anderson was placed on administrative leave shortly after he killed Lewis. Weeks after Lewis’ family filed the wrongful death lawsuit, Columbus police announced Anderson retired in bad standing due to ongoing criminal and administrative investigations.
He was a Columbus police officer for three decades. His personnel record detailed both accolades and department violations over those 30 years.
Anderson was fired in 2004, and while his personnel record didn’t detail the violation, the Columbus Dispatch reported at the time that he falsely took pay for a job he didn’t perform. The Fraternal Order of Police challenged the firing, and Anderson was reinstated months later.
In performance reviews from 2020 and 2019, Anderson received high marks from his supervisors, saying he exceeded expectations in nearly every category. His willingness to volunteer for “extra assignments” was also noted in his reviews.
Anderson also had multiple departmental policy violations under his belt, according to Columbus police records. None of those policy violations included use of force, and his most severe punishment was a written reprimand and “constructive counseling.”
In 2018, he was reprimanded for leaving his body camera at home during an incident in which another officer used a taser on a suspect. Anderson was also disciplined for some vehicle operation violations during pursuits between 2018 and 2020, including turning off his dash camera at different points during a pursuit.