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Civil Rights Leaders Demand 'No More Excuses' As Andre Hill Is Laid To Rest

Rev. Al Sharpton flanked by (from left) Bishop Timothy Clarke of the First Church of God, Attorney Michael Wright and Attorney Ben Crump after a memorial for Andre Hill on Jan. 5, 2021..
Nick Evans
Rev. Al Sharpton flanked by (from left) Bishop Timothy Clarke of the First Church of God, Attorney Michael Wright and Attorney Ben Crump after a memorial for Andre Hill on Jan. 5, 2021..

Andre Hill was laid to rest in Columbus on Tuesday. A memorial service at the First Church of God in Southeast Columbus brought together friends and family members as well as a string of elected officials.

Hill's killing by a now-former Columbus Police officer came less than three weeks after a Franklin County Sheriff's Deputy shot and killed Casey Goodson Jr. The two shootings, with white officers firing on Black men, have stirred outrage in Columbus after a year marked by protests against racism and police brutality.  

Below the pulpit, Hill laid in an open casket as a stream of people came to offer the last respects. Nearby hung a quilt with the faces of other Black people killed by police, including Breonna Taylor and Tamir Rice. The same church hosted funeral services for Goodson last month.

Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin signaled his support for “Andre’s Law,” legislation proposed by the family to fire officers who fail to activate their body cameras or provide first aid.

“If we are our brother’s keeper, then we as a community need justice for Andre,” Hardin said. “If we are our brother’s keeper, we won’t turn a blind eye to these injustices against Black men and Black women. If we are our brother’s keeper then we as a community must advance 'Andre’s Law'.”

State Rep. Erica Crawley (D-Columbus) committed to similar legislation at the state level.

Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus) said Hill’s life will have a lasting impact on the community.

“His death will not merely be a rallying cry at protests,” Beatty said. “His death will not be in vain, his memory will not be forgotten, instead his life will be celebrated.”

Rev. Al Sharpton, who flew into Columbus that morning, delivered the eulogy hammering away a message of "no more excuses." He argued that officers sworn to protect and serve should be held to a higher standard.

“You are not no regular human being, you are hired to be your brother’s keeper—not your brother’s killer,” Sharpton shouted.  “If you couldn’t have lived up to the badge, you shouldn’t have put it on.”

In a press conference after the service, Sharpton echoed the calls of Hill’s family members to prosecute Adam Coy, the officer who shot Hill during a December 22 non-emergency call.

Coy was fired by the city's Department of Public Safety last week, over his unjustified use of deadly force, failure to activate his body camera and failure to administer first aid to Hill. The shooting is currently the subject of criminal and civil rights investigations by state and federal authorities, but no charges have been announced yet.

“These police must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Sharpton said. “We cannot normalize police shooting unarmed men based on their imagination.”

Demonstrators greeting Hill's casket at the Brentnell Rec Center.
Credit Nick Evans / WOSU
Demonstrators greeting Hill's casket at the Brentnell Rec Center.

Hill's body was then conveyed to the Brentnell neighborhood in a long procession. His casket was transferred to a horse drawn carriage and brought to the Brentnell Rec Center before he was laid to rest. About a hundred people were on hand in the cold chanting slogans as Hill arrived.

Family members have repeatedly described how central the rec center was in Hill’s life: It was the place where he formed friendships and learned to play chess.

During the service, Hill’s friend Tracy Smith said the thing that stuck with him about Hill was his deep, booming voice. He recalled meeting him as a teenager and joking that then-14 year old Hill sounded at least 30.

Smith said as they started going to the rec center together, he noticed Hill never got in fights, never argued and was never disrespectful.

“Now, if you grew up in Brentnell like I did,” Smith said, “we were always fighting, we were always arguing, we were always doing things we didn’t have no business doing. But once again I had that voice, the voice of reason, and that was Andre Hill.”

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.