“At this time it is critical that the video of last night’s shooting and all available facts are shared for the sake of complete transparency,” Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin said in a tweet that included the video and linked to a local news article about the incident. The state Bureau of Criminal Investigation is conducting an independent probe, he said, and could refer evidence to a grand jury.
The Columbus police, mayor’s office and state attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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“Donovan Lewis lost his life. As a parent, you know, I sympathize, and I grieve with his mother,” Police Chief Elaine Bryant said at the news conference. “I grieve with our community, but we’re going to allow this investigation to take place.”
In the video, officers knock on the apartment door multiple times and identify themselves before two men come out and are handcuffed. Police then stand at the doorway with guns pointed and loudly announce that they will send in a dog.
“Columbus police. If you are inside, make yourself known,” one officer says. Off camera, a man can be heard saying “they are sleeping.” The officer repeats, “Come on out. Come out now.”
One officer then follows a police dog to Lewis’s room and opens the door. Immediately after a light illuminates Lewis propping himself on his mattress, the officer shoots. As Lewis writhes and moans in the bed, he is told to “crawl” out of the room and to stop resisting arrest. He was handcuffed on the bed and died in a hospital shortly after.
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“Police shot and killed Donovan Lewis while he was in one of the most vulnerable places a person can be — bed. As the investigation unfolds, some may point to the fact that the police were attempting to execute a warrant when they shot Mr. Lewis, as if to suggest that an alleged offense warrants immediate execution,” Kelly Sampson, director of racial justice at the anti-gun-violence organization Brady, said in a statement.
The killing is the latest example of unarmed Black Americans being shot by police. Black Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than White Americans, according to a 2019 study by Northwestern University. Numbers are even starker in Ohio, where Black people are 4.5 times more likely to be killed by police than White people.
In December 2020, Andre Hill, a 47-year-old unarmed Black man was shot four times by a Columbus police officer while leaving a friend’s house. His family received a $10 million settlement from the city. Last year, an officer fatally shot Ma’Khia Bryant, a Black 16-year-0ld, outside her home. The officer was cleared of criminal wrongdoing after an investigation.
Lewis’s killing was the third police shooting in the city in the past week, according to the Columbus Urban League. The organization called for a community forum on Saturday to discuss the incident.
“Yesterday’s shooting evokes painful, conflicting responses. We understand that serving a felony warrant creates a highly volatile and dangerous situation. And yet, the body camera video is as gut-wrenching as is the fact that another Black man lost his life,” Stephanie Hightower, the group’s president, said in a statement. “No matter the ultimate conclusion, our community deserves an independent, thorough and transparent investigation by all appropriate entities.”