Officials push for Columbus Police officer who shot Black man dead to be fired

Last Updated 25 December 2020, 05:39 IST

Two days after a police officer in Columbus, Ohio, fatally shot a Black man within seconds of encountering him, the mayor and police chief moved to fire the officer.

Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and Chief Thomas Quinlan said in statements Thursday that Officer Adam Coy, a 19-year veteran, should be terminated for not immediately turning on his body camera and not providing aid to Andre Maurice Hill, whom he shot early Tuesday.

“Enough is enough,” Ginther said in a brief video statement, adding, “We as a community need to come together and hold folks accountable.”

Later, Quinlan said in a video statement, “I have seen everything I need to see to reach the conclusion that Officer Coy must be terminated immediately.” He also referred to Coy’s “unreasonable use of deadly force.”

Quinlan wrote in his report on the episode, “Known facts do not establish that this use of deadly force was objectively reasonable.”

The recommendation has been sent to Ned Pettus Jr., the director of public safety for Columbus, who will make a final determination on whether to fire the officer, Quinlan said. Pettus, an appointee of Ginther, has scheduled a hearing on the matter for Monday morning, according to the chief.

In Quinlan’s video statement, he called the shooting of Hill, 47, “preventable violence, senseless violence.” He added, “This didn’t have to happen and it never should have.”

It was the second deadly shooting of a Black man by a law enforcement officer in Columbus in three weeks. “Our community is exhausted,” Ginther said during a news conference Tuesday.

The latest deadly encounter began about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday when two police officers responded to a call from someone concerned about an SUV parked in a residential area.

On a recording of the call, which has been made public, a man told a police dispatcher that the vehicle had been there for about 30 minutes, and that the car had been running for much of that time.

Coy was one of the officers who responded to the call. He did not activate his body camera until after firing his weapon, a policy violation, but the department’s body cameras are equipped with a feature that records the 60 seconds before they are turned on. When Coy did turn on his camera, the playback feature captured the shooting.

That video, which was released Wednesday, shows Coy approaching a garage with another officer, shining a flashlight inside. A vehicle and Hill are in the garage. Hill walks slowly toward the officers, holding a cellphone in his left hand. His right hand is not visible in the footage, which did not capture audio of any verbal exchange before the shooting.

Within seconds, Coy pulled his gun and opened fire. Hill fell to the ground, and then the audio recording started. Coy, still pointing his gun, ordered Hill to put his hands to his side and roll onto his stomach. “Don’t move, dude,” Coy said as he patted down a groaning Hill. “Roll over, dude.”

It is unclear exactly how long it took police officers to provide first aid to Hill, who died at a hospital shortly after.

Quinlan said he was able to expedite the normal investigatory process because of that footage. “Like all of you, I witnessed his critical misconduct firsthand via his body-worn camera,” the chief said.

Efforts to reach Coy by phone Thursday night were not successful.

In addition to the investigation of Coy, Quinlan said a second departmental investigation is underway into whether “additional officers” either failed to activate their body cameras or render aid to Hill.

In Quinlan’s written recommendations to Pettus, the chief said the police dispatcher “did not provide Officer Coy any indication there was criminal activity occurring or a present danger in the neighborhood. Radio merely advised to check the area for a suspicious vehicle.”

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is also investigating whether Coy’s shooting of Hill violated state law, the chief said.

The shooting came three weeks after a county sheriff’s deputy fatally shot Casey Goodson Jr., 23, in the doorway of his home in Columbus. That shooting, on Dec. 4, was not captured on video but touched off a round of protests against police brutality.

According to the U.S. marshal for the Southern District of Ohio, Peter Tobin, officers on a fugitive task force saw Goodson waving a gun in his car. Jason Meade, the sheriff’s deputy, chased and confronted Goodson, who was returning home with sandwiches after a dental appointment and was not the target of the search.

The deputy’s lawyer said Goodson had pointed a gun at the officer. A lawyer for Goodson’s family said the only things in his hands were a coronavirus mask and some Subway sandwiches.

Goodson had a license to carry a firearm. The Columbus police, who are investigating the killing, said they recovered a gun from the scene but did not specify where.

Meade was placed on administrative leave after the shooting, which is being investigated by the police in Columbus, the FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

(Published 25 December 2020, 04:21 IST)

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