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Data on Columbus Division of Police use of force, deadly shootings shows racial disparity

Columbus police shot 39 people since 2015. Twenty-four of those – or 61% - were Black, according to data compiled by the Washington Post.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A 10 Investigates’ review of more than five years’ worth of use of force and shooting data involving the Columbus Division of Police shows an overrepresentation and racial disparity exists.

According to data involving fatal police shootings compiled by the Washington Post, the Columbus Division of Police shot 39 people since 2015. Twenty-four of those – or 61% - were Black.

According to the latest U.S. Census data, the city’s Black population is roughly 29%.

The disproportionality in the data falls in line with what the Post found across the country, which noted in its reporting:

Although half of the people shot and killed by police are White, Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans. Hispanic Americans are also killed by police at a disproportionate rate.

That same data examined by 10 Investigates shows almost all of those shot by Columbus police during that same time period were reported to be armed – 37 out of the 39.

The exceptions to that included Donovan Lewis – who was fatally shot last week by Columbus Police Officer Ricky Anderson - and Andre Hill, who was fatally shot in December 2020 by Columbus Police Officer Adam Coy.

Coy’s murder trial is scheduled to begin in November. He has pleaded not guilty.

Additional data that examined all types of use of force used by Columbus police between 2017 and 2021 shows that 51% of those who police used force against were Black. That data was compiled and examined by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. The group examined nearly 3,000 reports of use of force dating back to 2017.

Columbus police were at Lewis’ Hilltop apartment last week serving a warrant for domestic violence and assault. Police body camera footage shows police yelling for Lewis to come out of his apartment bedroom for 10 minutes.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is now investigating the shooting, but it's unclear how long that will take before it's presented to a grand jury.

After the shooting, police said Lewis had a vape pen in his hand, but the attorney for the family said the video doesn't show that, and even if it did, the pen doesn't resemble a gun and doesn't justify the shooting.

Rex Elliott, the attorney for Lewis’ family, called the shooting unjustified because Lewis was unarmed and was shot in a split second after the officer opened his bedroom door.

Reached for comment in response to the data, Elliott said: “It’s clearly disproportionate. The minority community (is) hit way harder. That tells me there is a flaw a problem in the system."

"It’s systemic,” Elliott said.

Many city offices were closed Monday because of the Labor Day holiday.

10 Investigates left three voicemail messages and an email attempting to reach a spokesman for the Columbus Division of Police. We have not heard back yet. This reporting can be updated.

Over the weekend, a series of demonstrations and protests – both outside the Columbus Division of Police headquarters and the Ohio Statehouse – called for justice for Donovan Lewis.

A woman who identified herself as Donovan Lewis’ great aunt told a small crowd gathered outside police headquarters, “I cannot and shall not identify with the craziness that we are seeing now where our children are being gunned down by people who are supposed to be protecting us.”

At a gathering Sunday outside the Ohio Statehouse, State Senator Hearcel Craig, D – Columbus, urged protests to remain peaceful and added that “we need to get to the truth.”

“If the federal government, if they intervene regarding this so that we can get at the truth. And that’s what is important. To the family. To the life of Donovan. None of us are perfect. Whether you bring in what has happened in his life in the past, did this incident rise at the level of a life being taken?

"We have to have all of the truth. And in this matter justice must be served,” Craig told 10TV News.

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