Donovan was generally loving and affectionate, LaTonya said. But this summer, the couple began to have heated arguments. Donovan pushed LaTonya off a chair in a park in August, she said, so she ran off and called the police.
The call sparked a devastating series of events that culminated last week when Donovan, 20, was shot and killed by police at 2.30am in the bed the couple shared. LaTonya was at work. The shooting is the latest high-profile incident to reignite anger over police tactics toward black people, particularly the use of nighttime raids.
Police shooting of unarmed black man in bed rekindles angst in Ohio
The police had arrived at Donovan’s apartment with arrest warrants. They were acting on misdemeanor domestic violence and assault charges stemming from LaTonya’s appeal in August, as well as a year-old felony charge of improperly handling a firearm in a vehicle.
For Donovan’s family, it’s a time of mourning for a young man they describe as funny and caring, adored by his siblings and teachers even as he struggled with mental health issues. He enjoyed playing basketball and football, eating oxtail stew, and making music videos.
For LaTonya, there is no end to the anguish – the loss of the man she loved, the prospect of raising a baby without her father and knowing that her call to the police the month latter may have inadvertently led to Donovan’s death.
The night Donovan was killed, LaTonya worked from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. at Tropical Nut and Fruit, a food company near Grove City. A neighbor called to say Donovan had been shot and was not responding.
Now her days are a blur of tears and storylines. “He was a very good person,” said LaTonya, 30, who spoke exclusively to The Post. “I never wanted him to get in trouble. I wanted him to understand his life. I will never understand that.
“What me and him went through, it had nothing to do with rousing him from his sleep,” LaTonya said tearfully. “You killed him because he woke up.”
In body camera footage of the shooting released by authorities, officers repeatedly knock on the door of the apartment and identify themselves before two men come out and are handcuffed. Then an officer handling a police dog opens the door to the bedroom where Donovan was sleeping. A bright light illuminates Donovan who begins to sit up, and the officer immediately fires his gun. Donovan was unarmed.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation has launched an investigation into the murder. The officer who shot Donovan was Ricky Anderson, a 30-year veteran of the force assigned to the canine unit. He was placed on administrative leave in accordance with department policy.
Mark Collins, an attorney for Anderson, said the officer saw an object in Donovan’s hand that he believed to be a gun. After Donovan was shot, body camera footage shows a vape pen lying on the bed.
David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh and an expert in criminal procedure and police conduct, said the rapid release of body camera footage was a first step toward accountability. Given the public attention on the case, Harris said he expects the investigation to wrap up in a few weeks.
Rebecca Duran, Donovan’s mother, said she plans to talk more about her son’s life in the coming days. “It’s been a terrible time for all of us,” she said. “He was so much more than anything published about him” by the authorities.
Donovan was raised in a culturally diverse family of seven siblings, some of whom are Latino. Growing up in Columbus, he played basketball at a nearby mosque, and people used to ask if the lanky 6ft 2in youngster was from East Africa, his mother recalled.
After a teenager pointed a gun at Donovan’s younger brother, the family moved to a suburb of Columbus. Donovan started his freshman year at Westerville Central High School and started playing for the football team.
In a journal he kept for an English class in his senior year, he described feeling like an outcast among his suburban classmates. “Even kids of color were confused about the comments I would make and didn’t know the real struggle,” Donovan wrote. He felt like the kids were trying to “do stuff with me to feel cool, and sometimes it worked.”
He didn’t want to be defined by stereotypes or the expectations of others. “I want to be known as someone who is passionate about music, someone who loves sports, who is smart and has a good sense of humor,” Donovan wrote. “This is who I am and always will be.”
A former teacher shared the diary with The Post courtesy of Donovan’s family. He answers a series of questions about “The Hate You Give”, the best-selling novel by Angie Thomas later turned into a film. It tells the story of a police shootout: the protagonist’s best friend is killed by an officer who mistakes a hairbrush for a gun.
Two years before his life took a similar turn, Donovan reflected on issues of police bias and brutality towards people who looked like him. Black people deserve “the same treatment as white people and the same consequences, not to be judged more harshly or unfairly,” he wrote.
Kt Cress, a Westerville teacher who taught Donovan for two years, remembered his huge smile and said he was exceptionally insightful and kind. When Cress’ toddler was hospitalized with a serious infection the summer after Donovan graduated from high school in 2020, he sent her messages of support and they stayed in touch.
During his senior year, Donovan spent several months in foster care, a situation his mother described as the result of mental health issues and an attempt to get him extra help. In 2021, she called police after arriving home in the middle of the night and hit her arm during an argument, according to a police affidavit.
The previous month, police stopped a car where Donovan was sitting in the passenger seat and found a loaded gun on the ground in front of him, according to a police complaint. He was charged with improper handling of a firearm in a vehicle, a felony. The charges were never tested in court.
Earlier this year, Donovan spent a few nights at a homeless shelter, LaTonya said. The staff helped him find his own apartment. He most recently worked in an aluminum pan manufacturing plant. When he found out he was going to be a father, he was over the moon.
On July 15, Lewis posted a photo on Instagram of two positive pregnancy tests and shared how much he loves LaTonya. “Even though we go through this, she’s my queen forever,” he said. wrote. On his YouTube page, he posted a song he wrote for her.
Last month, he brought LaTonya a card, flowers and a pineapple — her favorite fruit — for her birthday. But as they sat in a park, the couple started arguing and Donovan got angry. He pushed her out of a chair and onto the floor, she said.
LaTonya ran to a nearby KFC and called the police. It was not the first time he assaulted her, she told them, according to a police affidavit. LaTonya told the Post that Donovan pushed her once before the incident in the park, causing bruises to her face. A warrant has been issued for Donovan’s arrest. Nearly three weeks later, police served the warrant at Donovan’s apartment in the early hours of August 30.
During this time, the couple reconciled, LaTonya said. She spent a few days away but soon returned to the apartment. She made Donovan one of her house favorites, pasta with Alfredo sauce topped with blackened chicken.
Now she regrets calling the police in the first place. Authorities are “trying to paint a bad picture, but there is no picture to paint,” LaTonya told the Post. “They took everything from me”
On August 30, she received a call from a police officer at 2:30 a.m. He repeatedly asked her if she was at the apartment. She said no and asked what was going on, but the officer offered no information. She started to panic. After hanging up, she said she called Donovan eight times. There was no response.
Less than 10 minutes later, there was a call from a downstairs neighbor: Donovan had been shot and was in critical condition. A Columbus police spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about the officer’s interaction with LaTonya.
During a protest outside Columbus police headquarters Friday night, Duran, Donovan’s mother, was shaking with grief and couldn’t bring herself to speak. On the inside of her right wrist is a small tattoo showing how to say “I love you” in sign language, a gesture she repeated with each of her children before they could speak.
“She wants you to know that she is not against all police, but she is against racist police,” said a protester speaking on her behalf as Duran nodded vigorously. “She is against mandates in the middle of the night when people are sleeping! She wants to see a real change in her son’s name.
Daryl Lewis, Donovan’s father, spoke of his kind heart and love for his siblings. “I remember him saying to me, ‘I got up this morning, I made them eggs. I put cinnamon and honey in them, dad, just like you,'” Lewis recalled. “He was always listening to others.”
LaTonya is due in March and says she’s sure her baby is a boy. She knows what she’ll call him: Donovan Latrell Lewis, Jr.
Walinchus reported from Columbus, Ohio.