COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Nearly six months after a Black man was fatally shot by a white officer while lying in bed, his family sued the officer and four others in the Columbus Police Department, calling his killing senseless and completely preventable.
The family of Donovan Lewis is seeking accountability, according to the complaint announced Thursday. Their lawyers said neither Columbus police nor Ohio’s capital city has acknowledged responsibility, and reforms are needed to prevent similar deaths.
The lawsuit also accuses longtime police officer Ricky Anderson of battery, breach of duty, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, failure to render aid and violating Lewis’ constitutional rights. Anderson and the other four officers are white.
Lewis, 20, died at a hospital following the shooting in the early morning hours of August 30, 2022. Police bodycam footage shows he was shot once in the abdomen, less than a second after an officer opened his bedroom door. Lewis appeared to be holding a vape pen, but no weapon.
Columbus police said officers had come to arrest Lewis on multiple warrants, including domestic violence, assault and felony improper handling of a firearm. No weapon was found in his home.
“This police officer fired his weapon less than a second after the door opened. That is about as reckless as a police officer can get,” Rex Elliott, the family’s attorney, said.
More than two months have passed since prosecutors were selected in December to review the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s independent investigation into Anderson’s shooting of Lewis and bring it before a grand jury. Lewis’ mother, Rebecca Duran, said she’s frustrated at how long that process is taking.
A separate lawsuit against the city of Columbus could be filed in the near future in federal court, according to Elliott.
“We now need the city to step up,” he said.
Messages left with the city and the police union seeking comment were not immediately returned.
The complaint also accuses all five officers of violating Andre’s Law, which was passed in 2021 by the Columbus City Council. It was named for Andre Hill, a Black man who was visiting a friend when he was fatally shot by an officer investigating a noise complaint in 2020. That officer, Adam Coy, pleaded not guilty to murder charges.
The law requires Columbus police officers to render immediate medical attention to an injured suspect. Officers failed to do that for Hill, and, according to the complaint, for Lewis as well.
After Lewis was killed last year, the city did stop serving overnight warrants for certain misdemeanor and non-violent felony suspects.
Samantha Hendrickson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.