Man killed by Ohio police may have had vape, not gun

Midwest

A man is dead after he was shot and killed by a Columbus police officer who was serving an arrest warrant to him overnight Tuesday in the Hilltop neighborhood on the west side, according to police. (WCMH)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A 20-year-old is dead after he was shot and killed early Tuesday by a Columbus police officer attempting to serve an arrest warrant on him. Body camera footage shows that the man, who was Black, was unarmed and sitting in bed next to what may have been a vape pen.

The footage was publicly revealed Tuesday afternoon, hours after the shooting, in a media briefing attended by Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther. The victim was identified as Donovan Lewis, and court records show officers were serving a warrant for improperly handling a firearm, assault and domestic violence.

“A mother has lost her son today in the city of Columbus,” Ginther said.

Below is an edited and redacted version of the body camera footage. Some may find its contents disturbing.

Officers went to an apartment building in the 3200 block of Sullivant Avenue to serve the warrant. The footage shows them knock on an apartment door for eight to 10 minutes before a man answers and was taken into custody. Officers saw another man inside the entrance of the apartment and detained him, as well.

They asked both occupants if anyone else was inside, and neither would say. Police then yelled to warn anyone inside they were releasing a K-9, with no response.

The video shows the dog move to the kitchen and start barking at a back bedroom door. The dog’s handler, Officer Ricky Anderson, moved to hold the dog back and open the door, while another officer followed him. Both had their guns drawn and pointed in the direction of the door.

Within one second of opening the door, Anderson shot Lewis as he sat up in a bed against the back corner of the room. Police said Anderson shot Lewis while he was wrangling the K-9.

Anderson, a 30-year veteran of the force, was placed on leave pending an investigation of the shooting.

Chief Elaine Bryant said Anderson fired his gun when Lewis appeared to raise a hand with something in it. Moving frame-by-frame through the video showed the man raising his right hand toward officers, while he put his left hand back toward a pillow.

“There was, like, a vape pen that was found on the bed right next to him,” Bryant said.

After the shooting, the footage shows officers putting Lewis in handcuffs while he was on the bed and then carrying him out of the apartment. Police haven’t specified where on his body he was shot, but video recorded outside the apartment shows police appear to try to treat the left side of his chest and also pull his pants off.

After trying to treat his gunshot wound at the scene, medics took him to a hospital. He was pronounced dead at 3:19 a.m. 

“Donovan Lewis lost his life,” Bryant said. “As a parent, I sympathize and grieve with his mother. As a community, I grieve with our community, but we’re going to allow this investigation to take place.”

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation said it is leading the investigation, as it does on any shooting involving Columbus police based on an agreement between the agencies.

“Every day, officers are put in compromising potentially life-threatening situations in which we are required to make split-second decisions,” Bryant said. “As the chief, it is my job to hold my officers accountable, but it’s also my job to offer them support.”

“When our officers have done the right thing, we’re going to stand with them,” Ginther said. “And when they do the wrong thing, we’re going to hold them accountable. We can’t do either of those things right now until this investigation is complete.” 

The shooting comes less than two years after a Columbus police officer shot a Black man who turned out to be unarmed. In that case, Officer Adam Coy apparently mistook Andre Hill’s phone for a possible gun. Hill was 47 when Coy responded to a nonemergency call and found Hill in a neighboring driveway.

Following that shooting, Ginther moved to bring in an outsider to run Columbus’ police department, selecting Bryant as chief in June 2021. Coy also lost his job.

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