Mother of Donovan Lewis, killed by police, speaks about son's death and justice

"He loved people. He had the biggest heart," she said.

ByABC News
September 8, 2022, 9:06 PM

Donovan Lewis, a 20-year-old expectant father, was shot and killed by a Columbus Ohio police officer and officials have opened an investigation and the officer, Ricky Anderson, is on paid administrative leave.

The mother of Lewis, Rebecca Duran and the family’s attorney, Rex Elliott, spoke with "ABC News Prime" about the case.

PRIME: Thank you both for being here. And Ms. Duran, we want to obviously send our condolences to you and we really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. We just went through the police department's explanation about what happened, including the second that it took for an officer to fire his gun, killing your son. What's your response to their version of events?

DURAN: There is things that are absolutely untrue. And when you watch the video, it's obvious. The officer that shot him is also in the video. It's absolutely obvious that he could not see him. He was partially behind the door and when he went to go shoot him, the person who had a clear view did not fire. So there's obviously something very, very, very wrong and that there's so much more.

The fact that there was a delay of care there, there was no attempt to preserve his life, frisking him, handcuffed, flipping him around on the bed. I work in health care. There was no pressure applied to the wounds. He should have been treated immediately in that room.

PRIME: You saw the video, apparently. Did you watch it immediately? I know that some mothers in this situation decide to not ever watch. Was there something that compelled you, that you had to see his final moments?

PHOTO: Family members, friends and community members attend a rally in the name of Donovan Lewis at the Columbus Division of Police Headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, Sept. 2, 2022.
Family members, friends and community members attend a rally in the name of Donovan Lewis at the Columbus Division of Police Headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, Sept. 2, 2022.
Gaelen Morse/Getty Images

DURAN: I knew something was wrong. I didn't know what it was. And so I had to see for myself. I have not watched the entire video. I have seen snippets, trusted friends have sent me pieces and parts…none of it is okay, but that I don't have to see the worst treatment of him. I mean, there were 6 minutes that passed from the moment he was shot before first aid, the first attempt at any kind of aid was given. He was gone. Seeing when they said he was resisting…I am so sorry, I have not been sleeping.

PRIME: Please don't apologize. Resisting arrest, right?

DURAN: Yes, ma'am. Yes, ma'am. He was limp. His own body weight is what they were fighting against, it was no muscular contraction in there. I mean, it was his own body weight. If he was able to speak, he would have said something. Help me, something. I’m smiling because I’m thinking about how he talked. But if he was capable of talking, he would have. Mm hmm.

PRIME: In cases like this, people are often remembered for how they died. I'm curious how you want people to remember Donovan for how he lived.

DURAN: He lived life grand. I mean, he loved life. He had a zest for life. He loved people. He had the biggest heart. The people that have reached out to me, teachers, coaches, a host of people throughout his life, his friends all talk about his awesome sense of humor, his awesome smile, his beautiful eyelashes, you know? How much he cared about those around him.

PRIME: Mr. Elliott, officers are saying that they waited several minutes at the front door and the bedroom door before entering. It was also their assertion that the officer believed that he was armed. From a legal standpoint, what do you think that officers could or should have done instead?

ELLIOTT: Well, we first have to start with the fact that this arrest warrant was served in the middle of the night, which is a massive problem. There was no reason to serve this in the middle of the night and create the chaos that they did. Secondly, there was no reason for an attack dog to be in that apartment. The other two residents came to the door and let the officers in.

PHOTO: In this Sept. 2, 2022, file photo, Rebecca Duran, mother of Donovan Lewis sits with protesters outside Division of Police headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.
In this Sept. 2, 2022, file photo, Rebecca Duran, mother of Donovan Lewis sits with protesters outside Division of Police headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch via USA Today Network, FILE

Additionally, Donovan was in the back of the apartment and there's no indication that he heard anybody at the front door. And the reality is that this police officer opened the door and within a split second, he didn't have the time to perceive anything in Donovan's hand. Donovan from the videos, his hands were down at his side.

These police officers were screaming at him to come out of the room. He's getting out of bed like they're asking him to do. He's following police commands when he is gunned down in cold blood. There was no indication on this video that there was anything in his hand or any reason for this officer to use deadly force.

PRIME: You're filing a civil case against the city and Officer Anderson on behalf of the family. Can you tell us anything about the allegations that it might entail?

ELLIOTT: Yeah, absolutely. It's a civil rights violation. It's excessive force. They use deadly force in a situation where deadly force was not called for. It was a reckless shooting.

PRIME: Ms. Duran, do you feel that that race played a role here?

DURAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. Donovan himself, he wrote some journals that, well, at a later date I’ll release them. In his own words, he was very, very adamant that people of color, he stressed that people of color, not just Black, but people of color, are not treated equally. And that after so many years, and he talked about the civil rights movement. I mean, Donovan was an activist before he was the reason for an action.

PRIME: And Ms. Duran, as you know, the Columbus inspector general's now opening a probe in this case. What would you like to see as a result? I mean, we asked this question all too often because really, in many cases, there is no such thing as justice after you've lost your child. But what would justice in quotes look like and mean to you at this point?

DURAN: First of all, the officer would be fired, in jail, never be able, ever in life, to perform any type of duties as an officer anywhere in the world.

PRIME: Officer Anderson's attorney released a statement that reads, in part, 'when we analyze police-involved shootings, we must look to the totality of the circumstances. We are expressly forbidden from using 20/20 hindsight because unlike all of us, officers are not afforded the luxury of armchair reflection when they are faced with rapidly evolving, volatile encounters in dangerous situations.' I'm curious, Ms. Duran, if you could speak to Officer Anderson directly, what would you say to him?

DURAN: I'm at a loss for words. I mean, I believe in forgiveness, for your own health. But at this moment, I'm not there yet. I mean, there's nothing else that I have to say.

PRIME: Mr. Elliott, Ms. Duran, we thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate you sharing your story.

ELLIOTT: Thank you. We appreciate the time very much.

DURAN: Thank you very much.

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