Last week The Root reported that an unarmed 47-year-old Black man was fatally shot by a police officer in Columbus, Ohio, while he was standing in a garage and holding a cellphone. The man has now been identified by authorities as Andre Maurice Hill. The officer who shot Hill, 19-year-veteran Adam Coy, has been fired behind the incident, but while Columbus’ police chief touts his firing as “what accountability looks like,” Coy has a record full of complaints of misconduct—including use of excessive force—that shows his firing may have been long overdue.
NBC News reports that Coy was charged with two counts of critical misconduct by the Columbus Police Department, but these are non-criminal charges that only apply to his employment review. Coy could still face criminal charges. According to NBC, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien appointed Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost as special prosecutor to conduct an investigation into Hill’s death.
After the Dec. 22 shooting, Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan recommended Coy’s termination over the officer’s failure to turn on his body camera before the shooting started as well as his failure to provide medical assistance after—which means Coy likely wasn’t fired for killing an unarmed person, but for everything else he did wrong that night.
As we previously reported, neither Coy nor a second officer on the scene had their body cameras on until after the shooting, but because the cameras have a function that records 60 seconds of “look back” footage, video footage of the shooting was recorded and recently released by the police department.
The video shows Hill walking towards the officers with his cell phone held high and with the illuminated screen clearly facing them making it extremely hard to believe a trained officer mistook it for a weapon. There is no audio until after the shots were fired and Coy turned on his bodycam. Once that happens he can be heard shouting at Hill—who is still alive but on the ground having clearly been shot—to “put your fucking hands out to the side” and to “roll on your stomach, now.” He then tells the other officer, “Don’t get fucking close, I can’t see his hand.” He then continues to shout at Hill to put his hands to his side as if he isn’t mortally wounded. Hill later died at the hospital.
“This is what accountability looks like,” Quinlan said Monday of the decision to fire Coy, NBC reports. “The evidence provided solid rationale for termination. Mr. Coy will now have to answer to the state investigators for the death of Andre Hill.”
Don’t get me wrong: It’s a good thing Coy has been taken off the force, and hopefully, criminal charges will follow, but the man has a record of misconduct complaints that indicate the possibility that “accountability” actually came far too late.
According to Yahoo News, Coy’s police record includes a 2012 excessive force case that led to Columbus paying a $45,000 settlement to the victim.
During a drunk-driving stop in October 2012, Coy punched a man, slammed him on the ground, and repeatedly bashed his head into the hood of his car while the man was handcuffed. The incident, witnessed by a college student and Coy’s own dashboard camera, was so bad the victim was awarded a $45,000 settlement from the city.
An internal police investigation found that the driver did not appear to be resisting arrest in the first place.
Still, Coy remained on the force, following a 160-hour suspension.
Other incidents have dotted Coy’s professional record. The Dispatch reported nine complaints against him in 2003, alone. He received written counseling for those incidents.
A Daily Beast review of Coy’s Internal Affairs Bureau file reveal more than 180 complaints against him since he joined the force. Most were labeled as unfounded, unsustained, or within the allowed limits of police force. But at least 16 reports were marked as sustained.
So yeah, firing Coy a long time ago would have been true accountability—the kind of accountability that would have saved Hill’s life.