Columbus, Ohio will pay a $10m settlement to the family of Andre Hill, a Black man who was fatally shot by a white police officer in December as he emerged from a garage holding a cellphone, the Columbus city attorney announced on Friday.
It is the largest such settlement in the city’s history.
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Hill, 47, was fatally shot by officer Adam Coy on December 22 as Hill emerged from a garage holding up a cellphone. Coy was fired and has pleaded not guilty to murder and reckless homicide charges.
“No amount of money will ever bring Andre Hill back to his family, but we believe this is an important and necessary step in the right direction,” Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said in a statement.
As part of the settlement, a gym frequented by Hill will be renamed the Andre Hill Gymnasium.
“We come here to applaud the city leadership in exhibiting responsible leadership to say that Andre Hill’s life mattered. That his life mattered. And to send a message that we’re better than this, America,” the family’s lawyer, Ben Crump, said after the settlement was announced.
Hill was visiting a family friend when he was shot. Coy and another officer had responded to a neighbour’s non-emergency complaint about someone stopping and starting a car outside.
“He was bringing me Christmas money. He didn’t do anything,” a woman inside the house shouted at police afterwards.
The shooting was recorded by Coy’s body camera, but without sound because Coy had not activated the camera on what started as a non-emergency call. A 60-second look-back function on the camera captured the shooting.
Coy, who had a long history of complaints from citizens, was fired on December 28 for failing to activate his body camera and for not providing medical aid to Hill. He was initially charged for dereliction of duty for not activating the camera, but those charges were dropped.
Coy’s lawyers successfully argued the officer did not violate any duty because he was on a non-emergency run that did not require the cameras to be activated.
Beyond an internal police investigation, the Ohio attorney general, the US attorney for central Ohio and the FBI have begun their own probes into the shooting.
Following Hill’s death, Mayor Andrew Ginther forced out Police Chief Thomas Quinlan in January, saying he had lost confidence in the chief’s ability to make needed changes to the department.
The city is narrowing a list of candidates for the new chief, with an announcement expected by month’s end. All candidates are external, with Ginther saying an outsider was needed to enact broad cultural changes in the department.
The department is under scrutiny for recent fatal shootings of Black people by white officers, including the death of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant on April 20. And earlier this month, a federal judge ordered the city to alter the way it responds to mass protests, saying officers ran “amok” during protests over racial injustice and police brutality last summer.
Ginther and other officials invited the Justice Department last month to review the agency for deficiencies and racial disparities in several areas.
The settlement announcement follows other large payouts in recent months by cities over the killing of Black people by white officers.
In March, the city of Minneapolis reached a $27m settlement with the family of George Floyd ahead of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the white former officer charged in Floyd’s death. Chauvin was convicted in April of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck for about nine and a half minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe and went motionless.