Columbus Fires Police Officer Who Killed Andre Hill
Columbus Police Officer Adam Coy been fired from the department, Public Safety Director Ned Pettus announced Monday evening. City officials from Mayor Andrew Ginther to Police Chief Tom Quinlan had called for Coy's termination in response to the killing of Andre Hill.
"When I became chief, I changed our core values to include accountability," Quinlan said in a statement Monday. "This is what accountability looks like. The evidence provided solid rationale for termination. Mr. Coy will now have to answer to the state investigators for the death of Andre Hill."
Coy, a 19-year department veteran, faced departmental charges of failing to activate his body camera and failing to provide medical aid, a violation of the city's use-of-force policy.
Pettus, who has the final word on disciplinary actions for police, held a disciplinary hearing Monday morning for Coy. Although Coy did not show up at the hearing, members of the Fraternal Order of Police attended on his behalf.
"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."
Ginther tweeted his support of the city's quick decision, but said "the termination of Adam Coy from Columbus Division of Police does not bring Andre Hill back to those who love him."
Coy and another officer were responding to a non-emergency call on Oberlin Drive just before 2 a.m. on December 22 when they encountered 47-year-old Hill inside a neighbor's garage. Ginther says Hill was an "expected guest." at the home. A Cranbrook resident had called police after seeing a man inside a vehicle, turning it on and off repeatedly, but there's no indication whether Hill was the person referenced by the caller.
Body camera footage shows Coy shining a flashlight on an open garage, where Hill turns around with a cellphone in his hand. Hill takes a few steps towards the officers, but within five seconds, Coy raises his gun and shoots Hill.
Coy and the other officer did not activate their body cameras until after the shooting. As a result, the first 60 seconds of the footage has no audio, and there is no sound of Coy's encounter with Hill. The footage also showed that officers waited over five minutes before administering first aid to Hill, who died just blocks away at Riverside Hospital. A preliminary report from the Franklin County Coroner concluded that Hill likely died from multiple gunshot wounds.
The day after the shooting, Ginther and members of Columbus City Council called for Coy, who was relieved of duty and stripped of police powers, to be terminated immediately. Quinlan joined them, making an official recommendation that Coy should be fired for unacceptable use of deadly force, failing to activate his body camera and neglecting to administer first aid.
"Like all of you, I witnessed his critical misconduct firsthand via his body-worn camera," Quinlan wrote in his recommendation. "I have seen everything I need to see to reach the conclusion that Officer Coy must be terminated, immediately. Some may call this a rush to judgement. It is not."
Quinlan made his recommendation last Thursday, bypassing the usual hearing he would have with the accused officer. In his letter to Pettus, Quinlan said that Coy's actions undermined the entire police department.
"Officer Coy's handling of this run is not a 'rookie' mistake as a result of negligence or inadvertence, but the decisions make [sic] and actions taken were reckless and deliberate," Quinlan wrote.
Pettus, the only city official with firing power in the Division of Police, said officers are required to receive due process. However, Coy chose not to appear at Monday's hearing himself.
"Officer Coy was provided an opportunity to be heard by the Director who will ultimately make the decision regarding his continued employment. Members of the Fraternal Order of Police attended the hearing on behalf of Officer Coy, who was not in attendance," the Department of Public Safety said in a statement.
In his announcement of Coy's firing, Pettus said Quinlan's discipline recommendation was "well-supported and appropriate." Pettus added that the city continues to investigate allegations of misconduct by other officers at the scene, who also failed to activate their body cameras or administer first aid to Hill.
"Because of the potential for those cases to come before me, and to protect the integrity and impartiality of that process and any future ruling, it is not appropriate for me to comment further," Pettus said.
Even if an officer is fired, it is still possible that they could be reinstated through union arbitration. Columbus' police union contract gives officers the right to appeal any disciplinary decision. A 2017 investigation by WOSU found that, in the previous decade, Columbus Police fired 14 officers and rehired three of those officers after appeals from the FOP.
Hill's death is currently the subject of a state criminal investigation, led by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who has been appointed special prosecutor. The U.S. Attorney's Office will also review the case for possible violations of federal civil rights laws.
No state or federal charges have yet been announced against Coy.
After the city released tape from the call that prompted the officers, racial justice activists planned a 7 p.m. rally Monday night on Oberlin Drive calling for white residents to "stop calling the cops on Black people."