COLUMBUS, Ohio – The fate of a white Columbus police officer who fatally shot a Black man last week hangs in the balance after a disciplinary hearing Monday that may result in his termination.
Columbus Safety Director Ned Pettus Jr. concluded a hearing to determine whether the actions taken by Officer Adam Coy in the moments before and after the fatal shooting of Andre Hill on Tuesday were justified.
Members of the police union representing Columbus officers attended the hearing on behalf of Coy, who was not in attendance, according to a statement from Pettus’ office.
The hearing comes after Police Chief Thomas Quinlan made a video statement Christmas Eve, saying he had seen enough to recommend Coy be terminated.
Quinlan expedited the investigation and bypassed procedure to file two departmental charges alleging critical misconduct against Coy in the death of Hill.
“We have an officer who violated his oath to comply with the rules and policies of the Columbus Division of Police,” he said. “And the consequences of that violation are so great, it requires immediate action. This violation cost an innocent man his life.”
Coy and another officer responded to a neighbour’s nonemergency call after 1 a.m. Tuesday about a car in front of his house in the city’s northwest side that had been running, then shut off, then turned back on, according to a copy of the call released Wednesday.
Mayor Andrew Ginther said it remains unclear if that car had anything to do with Hill.
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 the officer hadn’t activated the body camera; an automatic “look back” feature captured the shooting without audio.
An investigation is also being conducted into the other officers who responded to the call that ended in Hill being shot, who Quinlan said also appear to have either failed to activate their body cameras or to render Hill aid. He said any others who violated department protocols will be held accountable.
Officers must activate their body cameras as soon as they are dispatched to a major incident such as a shooting, robbery or burglary, under departmental policy. Although Coy was dispatched on a nonemergency call, the call became an enforcement action when the officer interacted with Hill because that was separate from the original call, said police department spokesperson Sgt. James Fuqua.
In addition to an internal police investigation, Attorney General Dave Yost was appointed a special prosecutor in the death of Hill on Thursday.
“We will do our duty based on the facts and the law,” Yost said in a tweet. “Whatever the outcome, someone will be angry—but the decision will be objective.”
There is also an investigation under the state’s criminal investigations unit, under Yost, with assistance from the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI’s Civil Rights Division.
As far as Coy’s employment, the city’s public safety director will now review all evidence and documentation submitted by the police chief and rule on his recommendation for Coy to be fired immediately.
Coy, a 17-year member of the force, has been relieved of duty, ordered to turn in his gun and badge, and stripped of police powers pending the outcome of investigations.
By union contract, Coy will still be paid.
The killing of Hill at the hands of Columbus police follows the fatal shooting of Casey Goodson Jr. on Dec. 4 by a white Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy. The two back-to-back shootings have resulted in an outpour of criticism from advocates and the Black community in Columbus for wider and more comprehensive police reform.
Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.