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Fired Columbus Police Officer May Not Talk To Investigators, Attorney Says

Body camera footage from Columbus Police officer Adam Coy just after the fatal shooting of Andre Maurice Hill on Dec. 22, 2020.
Columbus Police

The attorney representing fired Columbus Police officer Adam Coy says his client has not spoken with state investigators yet, and he may not at all. 

On Monday, Columbus fired Coy over the December 22 killing of Andre Hill, which remains the subject of criminal and civil rights investigations.  

The first line from the Miranda warning should be familiar to anyone who’s seen a police procedural on TV: “You have the right to remain silent.” 

Attorney Mark Collins, who represents Coy as well as Franklin County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Meade – who is under state and federal investigations into the December 4 fatal shooting of Casey Goodson Jr. – explains that right not to incriminate yourself applies to all criminal suspects, including law enforcement.

“The normal course of procedure in past uses of force are that we would provide a voluntary written statement to the investigators,” Collins says. “Then we would make a determination whether or not to sit down and meet with them, and then in general, a law enforcement officer is then invited to testify at the grand jury.”

Collins says that presentation is likely months away.

“They have to wait for the coroner’s report to be official, they have to wait to gather the toxicology results," Collins says. "Like I said, this process normally takes anywhere from two to six months to determine or be ready for a grand jury presentation in itself.”

A preliminary report from the Franklin County Coroner concluded that Hill likely died from multiple gunshot wounds, but the full autopsy isn't expected for 12-14 weeks.

No charges have yet been announced against either Coy or Meade, who remains with the Franklin County Sheriff's Office.

As the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation delves into Hill's death and constructs its presentation for a grand jury, Collins argues it’s important to honor past precedent. In that, he’s referring to the U.S. Supreme Court case "Graham v. Connor," which established what’s commonly known as the "reasonableness standard."

“Graham v. Connor specifically says you’re not supposed to look at it in terms of a hindsight,” Collins says. “You know, kind of like an armchair quarterback, you’re supposed to conduct the investigation and presentation based on was this reasonable.”

Collins explains questions about use of force should take into account the totality of the circumstances, and how a reasonable officer would respond.

Officer Amy Detweiler, who was also at the scene where Coy shot Hill, has already told police investigators that she did not perceive a threat from Hill as he walked out of the garage that morning. Detweiler said that Coy repeatedly shouted that Hill had a gun before shooting him – even though Hill was unarmed.

Collins didn’t weigh in on any efforts to appeal Coy’s termination from the Division of Police. He explains labor attorneys will be handling that effort if it goes forward.

Columbus Public Safety Director Ned Pettus fired Coy on departmental charges of unreasonable use of force, failing to activate his body camera and failing to provide first aid. While the decision was backed by the city's mayor, police chief and public safety director, the police union is still able to appeal through arbitration.

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.