Fired Columbus Police Officer Indicted for Murder of Andre Hill
Fired Columbus Police officer Adam Coy has been indicted by a grand jury for the murder of Andre Hill, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Wednesday.
The grand jury charges against Coy include murder, felonious assault, dereliction of duty for failing to activate his body camera, and dereliction of duty for failing to alert his fellow officer that he felt Hill presented a danger. Yost said Coy was arrested at his lawyer's office this afternoon.
"Andre Hill should not be dead," Yost said at a press conference.
Coy is just the second Columbus officer to be indicted for shooting a civilian in the last 20 years.
"The indictment does not lessen the pain of his tragic death for Mr. Hill's loved ones, but it is a step towards justice. I thank the grand jury for their service," Mayor Andrew Ginther tweeted.
The community was outraged by the killing of Andre Hill, an unarmed Black man, by law enforcement. The indictment does not lessen the pain of his tragic death for Mr. Hill's loved ones, but it is a step towards justice. I thank the grand jury for their service.— Mayor Andrew Ginther (@MayorGinther) February 4, 2021
"Tonight we have partial justice – true justice would be if Andre' Hill was still with us today," reads a statement from Columbus City Council president Shannon Hardin.
Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney representing Hill's family, said in a statement that they are "encouraged" by the grand jury's decision.
“Officer Coy claimed, ‘there’s a gun in his other hand,’ while Andre clearly held a phone," Crump wrote. "Though nothing will bring back Andre’s life and relieve his family’s grief, this is an important step toward justice.”
Coy, who is white, fatally shot Hill on December 22 while responding to a non-emergency call in northwest Columbus. Coy and another officer, Amy Detweiller, encountered Hill early in the morning inside a neighbor's garage, where the homeowners say the 47-year-old Black man was waiting to deliver Christmas money. The service call was prompted by a nearby resident's complaint about a man repeatedly turning a car on and off, but it was never determined whether Hill was the person being referenced.
Coy fatally shot Hill within seconds of encountering him. But because neither Coy nor Detweiller activated their body cameras before the shooting, there is no audio of their brief interaction or the moments before the incident. Thanks to a 60-second "lookback" feature on Columbus Police bodycams, footage shows Hill turning to face the officers with a cellphone in his hand.
The bodycams also shows Coy, Detweiller and other officers neglecting to provide first aid for almost 10 minutes after Hill was shot – even after handcuffing Hill while he laid unresponsive on the garage floor.
Detweiller later said that she did not perceive Hill as a threat, but told investigators that Coy shouted that Hill had a gun. Hill was in fact unarmed.
The criminal investigation was led by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, with the Ohio Attorney General's Office acting as a special prosecutor at the request of the Franklin County Prosecutor. The U.S. Attorney's Office is also reviewing the case for possible civil rights violations.
"I believe the evidence in this case supports the indictment, and my office will vigorously prosecute this case," Yost said.
Soon after the early-morning shooting, Coy was relieved of duty, and city officials moved quickly to fire him from the department, citing his unreasonable use of force and failures to activate his body camera or provide first aid to Hill. On December 28, Columbus Public Safety Director Ned Pettus officially terminated Coy, just hours after holding a disciplinary hearing that Coy did not attend.
"The actions of Adam Coy do not live up to the oath of a Columbus Police officer, or the standards we, and the community, demand of our officers," Pettus wrote in a press release. "The shooting of Andre Hill is a tragedy for all who loved him, in addition to the community and our Division of Police."
Pettus has the final word on employment in the police department, but officers can still appeal their firings or other disciplinary measures. The Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents local law enforcement officers, has filed a grievance with the city, arguing that Coy did not receive due process.
On Wednesday night, FOP Capitol City Lodge #9 president Keith Ferrell released a statement acknowledging Coy's indictment.
"A jury of independent civilians has reviewed facts of the shooting case involving former officer Coy. They have made the decision to indict him based on this and he will have the ability to present facts on his behalf at a trial just like any other citizen," Ferrell. "At that time, we will see all the facts for the first time with the public as the process plays out."
Columbus City Council on Monday passed "Andre's Law" requiring officers to activate their body cameras and provide first aid if a person is injured by an officer. Officers who violate the law can be subject to discipline or be charged with dereliction of duty, a second-degree misdemeanor.
Ginther also announced that the city would spend $4.5 million to upgrade its camera system, making it less reliant on officers manually activating the bodycams.
Internal investigations are still ongoing into Detweiller and other officers who responded to the scene.
Hill was one of two Black men killed by law enforcement in Columbus in December – following the fatal shooting of Casey Goodson Jr. by a Franklin County Sheriff's Deputy just weeks before. The two deaths reignited protests over racial justice and police reform, and ultimately led to the demotion of Columbus Police Chief Tom Quinlan.
At Hill's memorial service last month, Rev. Al Sharpton demanded that officers like Coy be held to a higher standard. “These police must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We cannot normalize police shooting unarmed men based on their imagination," Sharpton said.
Although Quinlan pushed strongly for Coy's firing, Mayor Andrew Ginther said Quinlan had lost residents' faith and was unable to implement necessary reforms. Quinlan, who has served as interim and then permanent chief since February 2019, stepped down to the rank of deputy chief, with Deputy Chief Mike Woods temporarily leading the department in his place.
Columbus is now launching a nationwide search for a new police chief, with Ginther saying he hopes to hire from outside the department for the first time in city history.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated with more information.
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