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Columbus Police Officer Relieved Of Duty After Fatally Shooting Black Man

Columbus Police vehicles outside the division headquarters.
David Holm

Mayor Andrew Ginther says a Columbus Police officer has been relieved of duty for failing to activate his body camera before fatally shooting a Black man early Tuesday morning.

This is second fatal shooting in a month by a local law enforcement officer where recordings were unavailable – and where city officials called upon the U.S. Attorney's Office to investigate possible civil rights violations.

Tuesday's incident happened on Oberlin Drive in the Cranbrook neighborhood around 1:30 a.m., following complaints of a suspicious vehicle in the area. According to a Columbus Police statement, a resident reported a man sitting in an SUV "for an extended period," turning it on and off.

Officers arrived on the scene and saw a man inside a garage. Based on a review of body camera footage, police say the man "walked toward the officer with a cell phone in his left hand. His right hand was not visible."

Police say the officer then shot the man, and the footage "also documents a delay in rendering of first-aid." The 47-year-old, who the city identified as Andre Maurice Hill, was transported to Riverside Hospital, where he died. 

“While it is very early in the investigation, there is one fact that disturbs me greatly," Mayor Andrew Ginther said in a press conference Tuesday. "The officer involved did not turn on their body-worn camera until after the shooting.”

The Columbus Department of Public Safety on Wednesday identified the officer as Adam Coy, a 19-year veteran of the department.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which since this summer has handled most police shooting cases in Columbus, will lead the investigation. Ginther said he is committed to a transparent and independent process, and asked U.S. Attorney Dave DeVillers to review if any federal civil rights laws were violated.

The body cameras used by Columbus Police do not begin audio recording until the officer activates the camera, an action that also prompts the video to jump back 60 seconds. That "lookback" feature means there is video of the shooting and aftermath, but no sound of officers interacting with the man.

Ginther says the available footage will be released within 24 hours. There is also no dash camera video from inside the police cruiser, police say, because officers were responding to a non-emergency call.

"The city works hard to provide police with the tools officers need to protect themselves and the public," Ginther says. "So let me be clear: If you’re not going to turn on your body worn camera, you can not protect and serve the people of Columbus. I have asked Chief Quinlan to remove the officer from duty and turn in his badge and gun.”

According to the division's body-worn camera policy, officers are required to activate their camera at the start of "an enforcement action, or at the first reasonable opportunity." Enforcement actions include calls for service, investigatory stops, uses of force, arrests and forced entries.

The policy adds that the cameras have an activation switch largely for privacy protection.

Columbus Police Chief Tom Quinlan said in a statment that he was "troubled" by the early facts of the case, calling it a "tragedy on many levels."

“The Division invested millions of dollars in these cameras for the express purpose of creating a video and audio record of these kinds of encounters," Quinlan wrote. "They provide transparency and accountability, and protect the public, as well as officers, when the facts are in question.”

Ginther added that no weapon was recovered at the scene, and no officers were injured in the incident. 

Being relieved of duty means that Coy was required to turn in his badge and gun, and will be stripped of all police powers pending the outcome of the criminal investigation and a subsequent internal probe. Under the current police contract, Coy will be paid during this time.

Police say Coy will not return until he has been cleared for duty by an independent psychologist.

A database of complaints against Columbus Police officers show several reports against Coy, all of which were determined to be unfounded. During one June 2002 incident, Coy received complaints for his handling of a prisoner, and for "rude or discourteous language or actions." Coy was also cited for violating police rules in 2008. None of those incidents resulted in discipline.

WOSU has requested Coy's personnel file from Columbus Police.

"We are still raw from the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and less than three weeks ago, Casey Goodson Jr.," Ginther said Tuesday. "Early this morning, we learned of the killing of another African American at the hands of law enforcement."

Columbus Police are still investigating the killing of 23-year-old Goodson by Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Meade in early December, an event that set off days of protests downtown. Because deputies were not equipped with body cameras at the time, there are neither recordings nor witnesses of the shooting, and Goodson's family disputes the account of events given by authorities.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is also leading a federal civil rights investigation into Goodson's death. The Ohio BCI declined to be involved in that investigation, however, because local authorities waited several days after Goodson’s death to request their help.

This article will be updated with more information as the story develops.

Gabe Rosenberg joined WOSU in October 2016. As digital news editor, Gabe reports breaking news and edits all content for the WOSU website, as well as manages the station's social media accounts.
Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.