The strained relationship between police and the Black community (“I don’t know if you’ve seen the news in the past 400 years.”—Michael Che) will never heal until cops can no longer invoke their supposed fear to justify the extrajudicial killings of Black people. It will never heal as long as cops continue to be more aggressive when dealing with Black suspects. It will never heal as long as cops can get away with having a “shoot first, fully assess the situation second” mentality, and all they have to do is claim “I was in fear for my life” for the justice system to consider their actions reasonable.
Tamir Rice is dead because of that mentality. Amir Locke is dead because of that mentality. Rekia Boyd is dead because of that mentality. Breonna Taylor is dead because of that mentality. Stephon Clark is dead because of that mentality.
Donovan Lewis is dead because of that mentality.
On Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio, the 20-year-old Black man was shot and killed by a police officer during a search of his home within seconds of the officer opening Lewis’ bedroom door, according to court records reviewed by NBC 4 confirmed by bodycam video footage. Lewis was shown sitting on his bed when his door was opened and a cop, identified as Officer Ricky Anderson, allegedly thought Lewis was armed.
Lewis was holding a vape pen.
Donovan was being served an arrest warrant on charges of improperly handling a firearm, assault and domestic violence. Here’s how things unfolded as reported by The Guardian:
In the body cam footage aired by NBC4, police officers were shown knocking on an apartment door for 8-10min before being met by a man who opened the door. Upon entering the apartment, officers found another man and detained them both.
The officers then released a police dog which trotted around into the kitchen then barked at a bedroom door. Anderson held the dog back before opening the door and then immediately fired his gun into the bedroom as Lewis sat up in bed.
In a frame-by-frame breakdown of the video, police chief Elaine Bryant said that Anderson fired the gun when Lewis appeared to raise his hand while holding onto something.
“There was, like, a vape pen that was found on the bed right next to him,” Bryant said.
So, basically, Lewis is dead because a trained police officer couldn’t tell the difference between two objects that look nothing alike and because so many trigger-happy cops believe that even the most remote and minuscule chance that their safety might be in danger justifies deadly force.
Of course, Bryant had a different take which seemed to revolve around a single point—the police announced themselves.
“The officers knocked on the door for several minutes…acknowledging themselves as Columbus Police officers,” Bryant said during a news conference, according to CNN. Bryant went on to note that “once the K9 officer arrived on the scene, additional announcements were made for anyone else inside to come out or the K9 was going to be released inside of the apartment.”
It’s not like Bryant came right on out and said that Lewis’ failure to acknowledge the cops’ announcement justified the use of deadly force against a citizen armed with nothing but a vape pen, but it sure does sound like she was setting up a defense.
“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. We are committed to full transparency…and we’re committed to holding officers accountable if there was any wrongdoing. As the chief, it is my job to hold officers accountable, but it is also my job to offer them support… through the process.”
Whatever—let’s hear from an attorney for Lews’ family.
“The bodycam footage released yesterday afternoon says it all,” an attorney for the family said in a statement. “In literally the blink of an eye, a Columbus police officer shot and killed Donovan Lewis, an unarmed young Black man who was alone in his bed in the middle of the night. As a result of this entirely reckless behavior by a Columbus Police Officer, a family is left to grieve the loss of such a young soul.”
Ohio Congresswoman Joyce Beatty tweeted her disbelief at the “painful” shooting, remarking on Twitter that “Lewis was shot by the officer less than one second after his bedroom door was opened.”
We’re just going to have to wait and see how this one turns out. But if Tamir, Amir, Rekia, Breonna, Stephon and countless others are any indication, we probably shouldn’t be holding our collective breath in hopes of justice—or healing.