COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mayor Andrew Ginther said a Columbus police officer who fatally shot a Black man early Tuesday morning has been relieved from duty after it was discovered the officer did not turn on his body-worn camera before the incident.
Officers responded to Oberlin Drive in northwest Columbus just after 1:30 a.m. after getting a non-emergency call about a man sitting in an SUV, turning it on and off.
One of those officers was Adam Coy, a 19-year veteran with Columbus police.
The department said the officers arrived at the scene to see a garage door open and a man inside who was later identified as 47-year-old Andre' Hill.
Hill walked toward them with a cell phone in his left hand. Officer Coy fired his weapon, striking Hill.
He was taken to OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital where he later died.
A preliminary investigation indicates Hill was visiting someone at the home, according to the department. No weapon was recovered at the scene.
The department says the body-worn camera footage also documents a delay in the rendering of first-aid to Hill. The dashcam in the police cruiser was also not activated for any part because the officers were on a non-emergency run without lights or sirens.
“We are still raw from the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and less than three weeks ago, Casey Goodson Jr. Early this morning we learned of the killing of another African American at the hands of law enforcement,” Ginther said.
During a press conference Tuesday afternoon with Public Safety Director Ned Pettus Jr., Ginther said he was disturbed to find out Officer Coy did not turn on his camera until after the shooting.
Ginther said there is a function with the cameras that allows a 60-second lookback, recording a minute prior to being turned on but does not record audio.
The mayor said while the shooting itself was captured, we do not know what Officer Coy or Hill said. He added a second officer who was at the scene also did not turn on their camera.
Ginther said the city invested more than $5 million in cameras for officers and they have been proven to be a valuable tool to citizens and officers in situations like these, adding it was unacceptable they were not turned on.
"Let me be clear, if you're not going to turn on your body-worn camera, you cannot serve and protect the people of Columbus,” he said.
10TV looked into the current policies on body cameras for the Columbus Division of Police.
A directive revised on Dec. 1, 2020 states, "Sworn personnel shall activate the [body worn camera] at the start of an enforcement action or at the first reasonable opportunity to do so. Enforcement actions shall be recorded unless otherwise prohibited."
According to the document, "enforcement actions" include calls for service, investigatory stops, traffic, and pedestrian stops, suspected OVI stops, use of force, arrests, and forced entries.
The document adds, "Sworn personnel shall activate the BWC when an encounter becomes adversarial, or its use would be appropriate and/or valuable to document an incident unless otherwise prohibited."
The Department of Public Safety said Officer Coy has been relieved of duty pending the outcome of the criminal and internal investigation. Officer Coy will be paid during this time, per the union contract according to DPS.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is handling the investigation into the shooting.
Ginther said he has asked U.S. Attorney David DeVillers to review the investigation and determine if Hill's civil rights were violated.
"I am deeply saddened, frustrated, angry, demanding answers of what happened in our community earlier this morning. And I am committed to transparency and accountability in our division of police,” Ginther said.
In a statement, Columbus Police Chief Tom Quinlan said: “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. They provide transparency and accountability, and protect the public, as well as officers, when the facts are in question.”
Keith Ferrell, the president of the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, released a statement Wednesday after a press conference from Ginther.
Ferrell did not address the shooting specifically but did write, "The Fraternal Order of Police believes that every citizen including officers deserves due process and that accountability is important."
"The FOP will be responsible and allow that investigation to be completed and for a review to be conducted by citizens that make up the Grand Jury in Franklin County," Ferrell wrote.
Statement from Columbus City Council:
“The compounding heartbreak of learning an unarmed black man was killed last night by a Columbus police officer is beyond description. Thoughts and prayers cannot soothe this pain, and the members of Columbus City Council are beyond frustrated at this senseless death. Too many families in our community are mourning at a time when we should be seeking peace and hope.
“We appreciate the swift, clear action taken by Mayor Ginther, calling for a Federal investigation into the violation of the victim’s civil rights, relieving the Police Officer of duty, and working with BCI to immediately start an independent investigation. We are impatient for answers but insist on a thorough, professional, and complete investigation that ensures justice is done. Our prayers are with the family affected by the shooting.”