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Lawyer for Black man killed in bed by Ohio police says officers treated him like an 'animal'

Rex Elliott, the attorney representing the family of Donovan Lewis, also said police need to reconsider serving late-night warrants.
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The attorney for the family of a Black man who was fatally shot while in bed slammed Columbus, Ohio, police, on Thursday, urging authorities to reconsider when they serve warrants and saying officers treated Donovan Lewis like an "animal."

Attorney Rex Elliott, flanked by Lewis’ grieving loved ones, said during a news conference that body camera video shows an officer “recklessly” shooting the 20-year-old within seconds of encountering him while he was waking up and then following orders to get out of bed. The footage also shows officers' disregard for Lewis' humanity, he said.

“The video shows a sickening reaction to me,” he  said. “The video looks like they treated Donovan like an animal.”

Elliott added that after Lewis was shot, he should not have been moved because that risked making his wound worse.

“Instead, they grabbed him. There was no gun. They handcuffed him. They told him to crawl out of bed. They dragged him onto the floor. It was just terrible," Elliott said.

Police on Tuesday released body camera video of the shooting that happened just before 2:30 a.m. while they were serving an arrest warrant.

Chief Elaine Bryant said at the news conference that Officer Ricky Anderson fired his gun when Lewis appeared to raise a hand with something in it, NBC affiliate WCMH of Columbus reported. She said a device appearing to be a “vape pen” was later “found on the bed right next to him.” No weapon was found, police said.

Elliott disputed that account Thursday and said the video did not appear to show Lewis had anything in his hand, let alone a gun.

Anderson, a 30-year veteran of the force who was assigned to the canine unit, was placed on paid leave, which is protocol for officers who shoot their weapons on duty, police said.

A city representative declined comment Thursday, citing an ongoing investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

A 20-year-old in Columbus, Ohio, is dead after he was fatally shot early Tuesday by a police officer attempting to serve an arrest warrant on him.
Donovan Lewis, 20, of Columbus, Ohio, was fatally shot early Tuesday by a police officer trying to serve an arrest warrant.Columbus Division of Police

The body camera video shows the moments leading up to the incident after officers arrived at the apartment. In the video, officers knock on the apartment’s front door before a man eventually answers and is taken into custody. Another man who was encountered in the entrance of the apartment was also detained, WCMH reported.

Officers can later be seen inside the apartment with a police dog, which appears to start barking at a back bedroom door. Officers advance on the door, and Anderson, gripping the dog’s collar in one hand, pushes it open with the other before he fires his weapon shortly thereafter.

Police said officers provided aid to Lewis until medics arrived and took him to a hospital.

Lewis was pronounced dead at the hospital within an hour, at 3:19 a.m., police said.

Elliott also said Thursday that police should reconsider serving predawn warrants.

“First of all, I’d like to know why in the world they’re executing warrants at 2 o'clock in the morning?” he said. “The explanation by Chief Ryan, ‘Well, we do that because we have to be sure that they’re at home,’ is nonsense. The reality is that felony warrants are executed every day in daylight hours. There was absolutely no reason for this to have been served in the middle of the night like it was.”

Lewis’ death comes less than two years after a Columbus police officer lost his job days after he fatally shot a Black man. In May 2021, the city of Columbus reached a $10 million settlement with Andre Hill’s family over that deadly shooting.

It also comes after the fatal police shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, who was killed by a Columbus police officer in April 2021.

That same month, Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and City Attorney Zach Klein requested a review of the Columbus Division of Police. In September 2021, the Department of Justice agreed to review the practices of the city's police department.