The police shooting of an unarmed Black man this week has clearly highlighted the continuation of years of racial injustice and broken relationships with law enforcement, sparking increased protests and calls for justice in Ohio’s capital.
According to police, Donovan Lewis was shot and killed by a Columbus police officer around 2 a.m. on Tuesday as he was asleep in his apartment. The officer had come to the residence to execute a felony warrant. Police Chief Elaine Bryant of Columbus has stated that Officer Ricky Anderson opened fire because he saw that Lewis had “something” in his hand. She also mentioned that a vape pen was discovered close to Lewis’s bed.
“How many more people are going to die because of carelessness like this? When will the loss of young Black lives stop? “At a press conference on Thursday, Lewis’s family attorney, Rex Elliott, made the following statement.
There has been an increase in the number of Black people slain by police in the almost 900,000-person city after Lewis’s death. In 2020, Andre Hill, 47, was coming toward an officer with a glowing cell phone in his hand; in 2021, Ma’Khia Bryant, 16; and in 2020, Casey Goodson Jr., 23, were both shot as they entered their homes.
Mapping Police Violence, a non-profit organization that keeps tabs on police shootings across the United States, has found that in the past five years, officers with the Columbus Division of Police had fatally shot at least 14 Black persons, most of whom were men.
The city and county of Columbus passed resolutions in 2020 declaring racism a public health crisis, promising to address the disparities faced by people of color in areas such as health, poverty, economic mobility, education, crime, and food access. However, the criticism of Columbus officers’ treatment of Black residents and allegations of racism and discrimination within the ranks of the police department continue to fuel mistrust within the community.
Wil Haygood, a journalist and biographer who has written extensively on Columbus and the lives of African Americans, said, “There are good people in Columbus who recognize the problem is grave, but their understanding of it does not seem to be listening to the issue at all and that is very alarming.”
Haygood, a native of Columbus and a visiting researcher at Ohio’s Miami University, has argued that confrontations with police have defined the lives of African-Americans in the city for centuries. During the racial protests of 1968, Haygood seen White law enforcement officials engage demonstrators, and he too had been stopped by police on several occasions for no apparent reason.
I was raised to fear cops because I believed they were trying to get me, he explained.
Black individuals, who make up less than 29% of CDP’s population, were the focus of nearly 55% of police use-of-force incidents in 2018.
More than five years ago, after meeting a family protesting the death of a relative outside the county courthouse, attorney Sean Walton shifted his business to civil rights litigation and now represents the families of many Black men killed by police in the city.
Within a year after filing his first lawsuit in 2016, he had taken on the cases of three more Black males who had been killed by police. According to Walton, “what the people living in Columbus have long known” has been proven by body cameras and cell phone videos as time has passed.
He explained that the recent increase in gun violence was not a new phenomenon.
“has enlightened the country as to the chronic police threat that Black and brown people face on a daily basis as citizens of Columbus,” Walton added, referring to the constant fear of being shot by police.
Activists, scholars, and residents often feel that the changes that have occurred in recent years are incremental, with “little to no urgency,” and without fully embracing the community’s input, such as city officials acknowledging systemic racism and the ongoing review by the US Department of Justice into the Columbus Division of Police.
Several city groups have spent the last few days planning forums, prayers, and protests for this Friday and the weekend, using Lewis’ death as an example of the “huge, continuous harm committed against Black people” by law enforcement.
Black people “deserve to live in safety and peace and in thriving communities without the looming fear of state-sanctioned violence,” the YWCA Columbus stated in a statement.