A review of thousands of documents found officers with ‘troubled pasts’ are hired and rarely face prison time.
A white Ohio police officer was charged with murder on Wednesday in the latest fallout following the December shooting death of 47-year-old Andre Hill, a Black man, the state’s attorney general said.
Former Columbus police officer Adam Coy was indicted on a murder charge by a Franklin County grand jury following an investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s office. The charges faced by Coy, a 19-year veteran of the force, also include failure to use his body camera and failure to tell the other officer he believed Hill presented a danger.
Coy will plead not guilty to the charges, his lawyer, Mark Collins, said on Wednesday night.
Coy and another officer had responded to a neighbour’s non-emergency call after 1am on December 22 about a car in front of his house in the city’s northwest that had been running, then shut off, then turned back on, according to a copy of the call released in December.
Police bodycam footage showed Hill emerging from a garage and holding up a cellphone in his left hand seconds before he was fatally shot by Coy.
There is no audio because Coy had not activated the body camera; an automatic “look back” feature captured the shooting without audio.
In the moments after Hill was fatally shot, additional bodycam footage shows two other Columbus officers rolled Hill over and put handcuffs on him before leaving him alone again.
None of them, according to the footage released, offered any first aid even though Hill was barely moving, groaning and bleeding while laying on the garage floor.
The Columbus police officer who killed #AndreHill has been indicted by a grand jury on multiple charges, including "purposeful" murder.
Bodycam footage showed Hill was unarmed and carrying a phone seconds before he was fatally shot by ex-officer Adam Coy. pic.twitter.com/18XSFf59HF
— AJ+ (@ajplus) February 4, 2021
“In this case, the citizens of Franklin County, represented by the individual grand jurors, found probable cause to believe that Mr Coy committed a crime when he killed Andre Hill by gunfire,” Attorney General Dave Yost said at a news conference on Wednesday night.
He added, “Truth is the best friend of justice, and the grand jury here found the truth.”
Coy had a long history of complaints from citizens. He was fired on December 28 for failing to activate his body camera before the confrontation and for not providing medical aid to Hill.
Coy will fight the charges based on case law that examines such use of force incidents through the eyes of a “reasonable police officer,” Collins said, adding that his client has fully cooperated with investigators and “honestly believed that he saw a silver revolver coming up in the right hand of the individual”.
The union representing Columbus police officers issued a short statement saying it will wait to see how the case plays out.
Coy “will have the ability to present facts on his behalf at a trial just like any other citizen,” said Keith Ferrell, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police. “At that time, we will see all the facts for the first time with the public as the process plays out.”
Coy’s indictment comes just days after Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan was forced out after Mayor Andrew Ginther said he lost confidence in his ability to make the necessary department changes.
Ginther, a Democrat who has made changes at the police department one of his highest priorities, welcomed the news of Coy’s indictment.
“The indictment does not lessen the pain of his tragic death for Mr Hill’s loved ones, but it is a step towards justice,” he said.
Quinlan himself was highly critical of Coy and other officers’ actions and has said Hill would be alive today if officers had assisted him on the scene.
Michael Wright, a lawyer representing Hill’s family, said his clients are happy with the indictment which they see as a first step, even as they continue grieving their loss.
“It’s important to start holding these officers accountable for their bad actions and their bad acts,” Wright said. “I think it will go a long way for one, the public to trust law enforcement, for two, to potentially change the behaviour of officers and their interaction with individuals that shouldn’t be killed or should not endure excessive force.”