By Jennifer Henderson, CNN
(CNN) — A grand jury indicted former Columbus, Ohio, police officer Ricky Anderson Friday for murder and reckless homicide in the 2022 death of Donovan Lewis, court records show.
Anderson, a 30-year veteran of the Columbus Division of Police who was assigned to the K9 unit, shot Lewis, 20, an unarmed Black man, in bed on August 30, 2022, around 2 a.m. while uniformed officers were serving a felony warrant for domestic violence and assault and improper handling of a firearm. The warrant was being served on Lewis, police previously indicated.
“To be clear, we fully anticipated this – with the grand jury process being under the dominion and control of the Special Prosecutors,” Anderson’s attorneys Mark C. Collins and Kaitlyn C. Stephens said in a statement to CNN. “This case is not about if Ricky Anderson made the decision to use deadly force, but why he made the decision to use deadly force. As we progress through litigation, the evidence will show that it was because he was justified in doing so.”
During a news conference in 2022, Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant showed video frame-by-frame asserting that the moment Anderson opened fire it appeared Lewis was holding “something” in his hand. Bryant then said a vape pen was found next to Lewis.
“We are relieved that a grand jury concluded what we’ve known all along: Officer Ricky Anderson broke the law when he shot and killed an unarmed Donovan Lewis as he laid in his bed. CPD bodycam video showed this clearly and nothing has changed in almost a year,” Rex Elliott and Michael Wright, attorneys for Rebecca Duran, the mother of Donovan Lewis, said in a statement Friday. “Although Mr. Lewis’ family is pleased that his killer will soon face a jury of his peers, they are incredibly disappointed that it took so long to come to this conclusion in the first place.”
Civil complaint against officers
Lewis’ killing came amid other deadly police encounters with Black Americans that sparked protests nationwide, including in Columbus, where a series of killings by law enforcement have happened since 2020.
In response to Anderson’s indictment Friday, the Fraternal Order of Police issued the following statement:
“While the grand jury plays an important role in our system of justice, the grand jurors only hear the evidence the prosecutor wants it to hear. There is no defense attorney, no cross examination, no judge, essentially no rules,” said Brian Steel, the FOP’s executive vice president. “An indictment is far easier to secure than a conviction, which may also explain why Franklin County Prosecutor Tyack appointed special prosecutors to this case – to save his office the embarrassment of another acquittal.”
Earlier this year, the Lewis family filed a civil complaint against the officers involved in Donovan’s death. It argued that multiple body cameras showed Lewis “never extended or raised his arm as if holding a weapon.”
“Moreover, it took less than one second for Anderson to unholster his weapon, acquire a sight picture, and fire his weapon,” the lawsuit stated.
The lawsuit argued Lewis “did not present any threat to any of the officers,” and the officer “could not have perceived any potential threat” when he decided to discharge his weapon.
“Anderson recklessly chose to fire a single shot into the bedroom, mortally wounding Donovan. Anderson acted recklessly and wantonly when he made that choice over the options he ignored,” the lawsuit alleged.
The lawsuit offered six other “nonlethal” potential options Anderson could have allegedly taken, including deploying his Taser or a K9.
The Columbus police department previously told CNN they are unable to comment on pending litigation.
Justice Department involvement
The Department of Justice in February released its recommendations for reform of the Columbus police department following a nearly two-year review process.
The 14-page report urged reworking the role of community liaisons, so officers serve longer terms in the role, receive longer training, and consequently are better able to solve problems.
The report included suggestions to improve training, hiring and accountability, along with a recommendation for establishing a leadership group made up of individuals from the community, the police department and the Civil Service Commission.
“The grand jury process is a critical to upholding public trust and accountability, and I thank the jurors for their service,” Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said Friday. “The independent investigation conducted by BCI and the appointment of an independent prosecutor are examples of concrete reforms that help to ensure the fair and impartial handling of police-involved deaths.”
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