Family of Donovan Lewis calls for faster action in Columbus in wake of Tyre Nichols' death
Five months after her son was killed, Rebecca Duran is still asking for justice.
Her son, Donovan Lewis, was shot and killed on Aug. 30 by a Columbus police officer who had been one of several officers attempting to arrest the 20-year-old on warrants for charges including domestic violence against his girlfriend. The officer who fired the single, fatal shot, 30-year veteran K-9 officer Rickey Anderson, discharged his weapon within a second of pushing open Lewis' bedroom door.
"There's no accountability," Duran said Tuesday at a press conference with her attorneys, Rex Elliott and Dayton-based Michael Wright. They called on the justice system in Columbus to move faster, citing the response by Memphis and Shelby County officials in the wake of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols' death after a beating by police officers in that Tennessee city.
Ten first responders, including seven police officers, have been fired or removed from duty in the wake of Nichols' death. Five have been charged with multiple felonies, including kidnapping and murder.
"The reality is it stands in stark contrast to what has happened in the city of Columbus," Elliott said of Lewis' fatal shooting. "Five months later, the officer is on paid administrative leave. He hasn't been charged; nothing has been done to him."
Elliott said the two special prosecutors appointed by the Franklin County Prosecutor's office to handle the case have been in contact with him about their progress, but he said they are "not moving quickly enough."
Elliott also noted how quickly Columbus' city leadership was able to craft statements to be released on social media in response after the release of video in Nichols' death. Elliott showed screenshots of the statements and responded to each, asking why more hasn't been done in Columbus, the city those leaders serve.
"Do something here in Columbus," Elliott said. "It is time for Officer Anderson to be terminated, to be taken off the public tax dollars he's receiving."
"His family's being taken care of and ours is left to pick up the pieces," Duran added.
Duran also said she spoke with Columbus police Chief Elaine Bryant for the first time on Monday night at a community forum, with the two agreeing to talk more at a later date.
"If something's not done, I can sit here and promise you, it's going to happen again and none of us want that to happen," Elliott said.
Columbus police said Tuesday afternoon that police are bound by the investigative and disciplinary processes that are determined by city code and the city's contract with the Fraternal Order of Police.
"Any recommendation regarding discipline is required by the collective bargaining agreement to be reviewed by the chain of command," Columbus Division of Police spokesperson Melanie Amato said. "Depending on the incident and level of discipline, it may rise to the level of the Chief and then the Director of Public Safety. Any recommendations for suspension, demotion or termination would be determined by the Safety Director."
The special prosecutors on the case said Tuesday afternoon that the review of evidence in the case is ongoing.
"Any review of the use of force by law enforcement entails a detailed evaluation of all the facts and circumstances leading up to and surrounding the incident and application of guidelines set forth by the courts," special prosecutors Gary Shroyer and Tim Merkle said. "We sympathize with the family of Donovan Lewis and their frustration with the process. We are dedicated to achieving justice in this matter."
What led to the Columbus police shooting?
Columbus police had multiple warrants for Lewis, who was wanted on a felony charge of improper handling of a firearm, a misdemeanor probation violation and misdemeanor charges filed in connection with an Aug. 10 domestic violence and assault incident involving Lewis' girlfriend, court records show.
Police body camera video shows Lewis did not respond to officers who arrived shortly after 2 a.m. at the door of Lewis' apartment on Sullivant Avenue, and were knocking for eight to 10 minutes and identifying themselves as police.
Full video: Columbus police body camera footage of Donovan Lewis shooting
One of two other young men in the apartment finally answered. Those two men, who have not been identified or charged, were detained in handcuffs outside the second-floor apartment at the three-story building on the 3200 block of Sullivant.
Police, including a K-9 and his handler, Anderson, went into the apartment. The bodycam video shows police warning that they will release the dog, but Anderson leashes the K-9 as he and another officer approach the closed bedroom door where Lewis is inside. Anderson pushed open the bedroom door as a sergeant with his weapon drawn yelled "Hands."
Within a second of the door opening, Anderson leans into the doorway opening and shoots Lewis, who had sat up in bed with what Bryant said later turned out to be a vape pen in his left hand. Lewis, who was shot once in the abdomen, was handcuffed, patted down and carried out of the apartment and downstairs to a grass area outside.
After Lewis was carried from the apartment, officers rendered medical aid by applying what appears to be a trauma bandage and performing CPR. Medics, who did not immediately respond despite being told three times to go straight into the scene, arrived several minutes later and took Lewis to OhioHealth Grant Medical Center, where he died at 3:19 a.m.
What does the family say?
In bodycam footage, Duran tells a sergeant that she received a call from Lewis' girlfriend, who had gotten called by police to alert her that a shooting had taken place. Duran asks to know what hospital Lewis was taken to and does not yet know that he has died.
Duran said in the video that her son is "mentally ill" and that she "knows that's always the story." She said she had "begged" prosecutors for help for her son for years.
Previous coverage: Family's lawyer Rex Elliott criticizes Columbus officer
Duran said at a previous press conference called last year by Lewis' family and their legal team outside Columbus City Hall that she had sought help from counselors, psychiatrists and others for the majority of his life because of issues she as a mother had recognized in her child.
"He was special and different and had good and bad days," Duran said. "People thought it was a discipline issue and not a mental health situation."
Read more: Demonstrators march to OSU campus in protest against fatal police shooting
Duran said her son loved music. A song his family said he created was played at one intersection as demonstrators marched through Downtown on Sept. 2, the first of three days of demonstrations.
Did Donovan Lewis have a gun?
A search warrant return filed by Columbus police in Franklin County Municipal Court last year shows what was collected as evidence from Lewis' second-floor apartment. The return warrant shows no firearm was found in the apartment.
While the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is the lead agency investigating the shooting, Columbus police obtained the search warrant on their behalf. The document requested that BCI agents be able to execute the search warrant.
The search warrant return shows that two items were collected by BCI at the apartment that morning. One item is the black vape pen that is seen on the body camera footage. The other is Anderson's spent cartridge casing that was found on the floor in the doorway to the bedroom from where the officer fired.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Mother of Donovan Lewis speaks out after Tyre Nichols death in Memphis