City officials plead for peace, highlight reforms at Columbus Urban League forum

At a town hall-style forum Saturday morning hosted by the Columbus Urban League, city officials addressed residents who have questions and are looking for solutions after a police shooting that left one person dead Tuesday morning.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, Police Chief Elaine Bryant, U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce, City Council Member Nick Bankston and other city leaders attended the forum. The discussion was moderated by Urban League President Stephanie Hightower and Jerry Saunders, president of the Equity Now Coalition and CEO of the Africentric Personal Development Shop.

Officials discussed the three police shootings that occurred over an eight-day period from Aug. 22 to 30, including the fatal shooting of Donovan Lewis, a 20-year-old black man who was shot once in his Hilltop apartment when Columbus police officers tried to he is arrested there early Tuesday morning.

Officer Ricky Anderson shot Lewis around 2 a.m. Tuesday inside a bedroom of Lewis’ apartment in the 3200 block of Sullivant Avenue. Officers went to Lewis’ apartment in an attempt to serve outstanding arrest warrants on charges of domestic violence, assault and felony improper use of a firearm.

Hightower said the purpose of the forum was to help the community heal and “rebuild trust” while also informing the community about the details of the shooting, as “false information thrives in the absence of … factual truth.”

Columbus mayor asks community to ‘demand justice’ in ‘peaceful way’ after Donovan Lewis shooting

Ginther addressed the community as several protests and demonstrations are scheduled to take place over the weekend.

“It’s very important for us to think about and uplift this family,” Ginther said. “I’m going to ask the community to … help us build a culture of trust between law enforcement and the community. Continue to seek justice and do so in a peaceful manner.”

Ginther pointed to legislative moves in recent years, including the passage of Andre’s Law, an ordinance requiring officers to provide medical assistance, a $19 million investment in body cameras in 2021, his Bureau of Investigation’s handling of police shootings Ohio in which someone is injured or killed and the establishment of a political review board and a new inspector general as commitments to reform required by the community.

“They took to the streets and organized and forced us to step up,” Ginther said.

Hightower mentioned how the community reacted to the body camera footage released after the shooting, including questions about Lewis being told to crawl outside and “stop resisting” after the shooting. Ginther said if a current police policy is determined not to be best practice during the state’s investigation into Lewis’ shooting, he and Bryant will change it.

Bryant said the Justice Department is also reviewing Columbus Police Department policies and operations and recently visited Columbus to train sergeants.

“When it comes to certain things … that might not be a policy violation, it might not be out of policy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was something that should have happened,” Bryant said.

U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Columbus, is promising action at the federal level

U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Columbus, offered help at the federal level on police reform.

“We need federal legislation to come down to the states, to the cities, to insist that we have … more things on the record to root out bad cops,” Beaty said.

“This is bad what happened, but we are bigger than this. And at the end of the day, it has to be about those who have died,” he said. “They deserve this. Whatever was in their background, justice must prevail.”

What will happen next in the investigation?

The Ohio Bureau of Investigation is handling the investigation into Lewis’ fatal shooting, as is Columbus’ policy for every police shooting in the city in which someone is injured or killed.

The state’s investigation is likely to take several months to complete. Once finished, he will be presented to the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office for possible prosecution.

tmoorman@dispatch.com

@TaijuanNicole

This article originally appeared in The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus Urban League hosts forum on recent police shootings

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