The Columbus Police Department has acknowledged that officers feared for Donovan Lewis’ life before an officer fatally shot the 20-year-old black man early Tuesday morning.
Police were at the scene to arrest Lewis on multiple warrants. Police body-cam footage shows an officer opening a bedroom door in an apartment and immediately shooting Lewis, who was in bed. Lewis appeared to be holding the vape pen before he was shot, said Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant. No weapon was found.
“Whenever we encounter a black man, there’s a chance we might kill him,” Bryant said. “Even during a routine encounter. So when we’re barging into a dark apartment in the middle of the night with a K-9 unit, we absolutely fear for the target’s life. It is a very dangerous situation for them.”
Bryant said the department executes search warrants recklessly under the cloak of darkness because it helps with morale.
“It’s high-risk, high-reward,” Bryant said. “The potential reward is the opportunity to subject black men to severe psychological trauma and physical abuse before tossing them into a cell while we give each other high fives. It can remind you why you got into this business. The risk is that we blow their heads off and have to take a 6-month timeout while everybody cries about it.”
One officer interviewed said black men need to be less black to stay safe.
“I know it is probably wrong to say because you can’t do anything about the color of your skin, but black men aren’t safe around police, so the only way to improve their odds is to be less black,” said officer Brian Bazooka, a 5-year veteran of the force. “The best advice I can give black men is to carry themselves like white upper-middle class homosexuals. Those are the people we feel least threatened by. Learn to talk gay, play classical music 24 hours a day, sleep with a face mask on, drive a Kia Soul. These are things that could save your life.”
Despite officer Bazooka’s advice, Chief Bryant says black men should continue to fear for their lives.
“This will happen again,” Bryant said. “We know when you’re black. You can’t hide.”