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Attorney for Donovan Lewis' family calls for accountability following Columbus Police shooting

Donovan Lewis
Provided photo
Donovan Lewis was shot by a Columbus Police officer on Tuesday, August 30, 2022.

An attorney for the family of an unarmed Black man killed by a Columbus police officer Tuesday morning said the officer acted recklessly and there is no justification for the shooting.

Attorney Rex Elliott, an attorney for the family of 20-year-old Donovan Lewis who was shot by Columbus Police Officer Ricky Anderson while conducting a raid, spoke on Thursday morning surrounded by Lewis' family members.

Elliott said that Anderson, a 30-year veteran of the force, fired his gun too quickly after opening the door to Lewis’ bedroom inside an apartment on Sullivant Avenue.

Body camera footage released by Columbus Police on Wednesday showed that as officers opened the bedroom door, Lewis was shot immediately as he sat up in bed. Authorities say they found a vape pen on the bed.

Anderson had his gun and one hand and controlled a K9 officer with his other hand at the time of the shooting, the video shows.

Warning this video shows graphic gun violence.

“If you think Officer Anderson had some justification for firing his weapon then ask yourself why the police officer (standing to the left of Anderson) had his weapon drawn and had 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.”

Lewis' family did not speak during the press conference. Elliott said they would speak publicly at some point in the future but at this time are focused on making preparations for the funeral.

Elliott also said the family is very appreciative of the support that they have received so far and asked that people remain peaceful in response to the shooting.

Attorney Rex Elliott addresses reporters with the extended family of Donovan Lewis behind him, on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, in Columbus. Ohio.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins
Attorney Rex Elliott addresses reporters with the extended family of Donovan Lewis behind him, on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, in Columbus. Ohio. Elliott said the early Tuesday morning shooting death of Lewis at the hands of police was senseless and reckless and he called for immediate new police reforms. (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins)

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is conducting an investigation of the shooting and Anderson has been placed on leave during the investigation.

Elliott said the family is looking for accountability and wants Anderson to be punished. He also anticipates a civil lawsuit will be filed after the criminal process.

"They want this police officer punished. Certainly, you know, not permitted to be out on the street again. And certainly, the civil process will follow. But we're being very careful about the criminal process is very important to us here. Accountability is very important," Elliott said.

Following the shooting, Elliott said the treatment of Lewis was sickening and he will try to determine if that contributed to the death.

The video looks like they treated Donovan like an animal. He had been fatally struck with a bullet. Officer Anderson knew that one of the most important things in first aid, and trying to help somebody in a situation like that is to not move them. Instead, they grabbed him. There was no gun, they handcuffed him. They told him to crawl out of bed. They dragged him onto the floor. It was just terrible,” he said.

Elliott also took exception with the timing of the early morning raid. “What I would say to the mayor and the chief of police is that it is time to do something significantly more drastic and immediate. To put a stop to this, we can't lose one more young kid by virtue of a police officer recklessly fired his gun into a room at 2:00, 2:30 in the morning. We just can't do it. So more needs to be done now.

Tyler Thompson was a reporter and on-air host for 89.7 NPR News. Thompson, originally from northeast Ohio, has spent the last three years working as a Morning Edition host and reporter at NPR member station KDLG Public Radio and reporter at the Bristol Bay Times Newspaper in Dillingham, Alaska.
Nick Houser leads the digital media team and oversees all things digital, including wosu.org, digital content, the WOSU Public Media Mobile App, social media, enewsletters, podcasts and on-demand video.