Police killing of Black man in Ohio ‘senseless’, lawyer says

Lawyer says Ohio police officer used ‘excessive deadly force’ when he fatally shot Donovan Lewis, 20, in his bed.

Police in the US city of Columbus, Ohio have come under heavy criticism after the release of body-worn camera footage showing an officer fatally shooting a Black man in his bed during an attempt to serve an arrest warrant.

Donovan Lewis, 20, was unarmed when he was shot in the early hours of Tuesday by Ricky Anderson, a 30-year veteran of the Columbus Division of Police, the Columbus Dispatch reported, citing a news conference by city police.

Less than a second passed between Anderson pushing open the bedroom door as a police dog barked before the officer fired a single shot into Lewis’ abdomen, Police Chief Elaine Bryant told reporters.

It appeared that Lewis had a vaping device in his hand, and no weapons were found in the apartment, Bryant said. Police had a warrant to arrest Lewis on charges of domestic violence, assault and the improper handling of a firearm, the police chief also said.

The incident is the latest in a long string of unarmed Black people killed by police in the United States, many of which have spurred mass demonstrations demanding an end to deadly police violence and racial injustice.

On Thursday, Rex Elliott, a lawyer representing the Lewis family said not enough has happened in Columbus to alter policing practices despite several instances of white officers in the city shooting Black people.

“There can be no question that excessive deadly force was recklessly used by officer Anderson when he shot and killed an unarmed Black man,” Elliott said during a news conference.

“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?”

The US Department of Justice 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’Khia Bryant — and the city’s response to 2020 racial justice 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.

Lewis, 20, was unarmed when he was fatally shot in the early hours of Tuesday [Family of Donovan Lewis via AP Photo]

Meanwhile, the Ohio Bureau of Investigation has said it will investigate Lewis’s killing.

The probe must look at “the totality of the circumstances”, Mark Collins, a lawyer representing Anderson, the officer who shot Lewis, said on Thursday.

In such cases, “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.

In his remarks on Thursday, Elliott questioned the need for an early-morning operation. “The reality is that felony warrants are executed every day in daylight hours,” he said, adding that he plans to file a civil lawsuit against Anderson and the city.

In May of last year, Columbus reached a $10m settlement with the family of Andre Hill, a man who was shot dead in December 2020 as he emerged from a garage holding his mobile phone. Officer Adam Coy has pleaded not guilty to murder charges and is set for trial in November.

In December, the city also agreed to pay $5.75m to people injured during the 2020 racial justice and police brutality protests.

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