News

December 2020

Columbus officer who shot an unarmed Black man has history of complaints

Courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch
By Megan Henry and Bethany Bruner
December 23, 2020

The Columbus police officer who fatally shot an unarmed Black man on the city’s Northwest Side Tuesday has a history of complaints and issues with excessive force.

Adam Coy, 44, has been a police officer in Columbus since July 2001. Police said he has been relieved of duty pending the outcome of investigations.

Early Tuesday morning, Coy shot and killed 47-year-old Andre Maurice Hill at a home on the 1000 block of Oberlin Drive where he was visiting, police said.

Hill was shot by Coy after officers responded to a non-emergency disturbance complaint from a neighbor at 1:37 a.m. Tuesday about a person sitting in a SUV and turning its engine on and off repeatedly, police said.

According to previous reporting by The Dispatch, Coy had nine complaints filed against him in 2003, four of those coming in a one-month period. Coy received written counseling, The Dispatch reported at the time.

Read more: What we know about the fatal shooting of a Black man early Tuesday by Columbus police

In 2012, the city paid a $45,000 settlement to a man whom Coy had stopped for drunken driving one morning at 3 a.m. 

According to reports from The Dispatch, a cruiser camera showed Coy “banging the driver’s head into the hood four times during the arrest.” His actions were deemed “excessive for the situation.”

Coy was suspended for 160 hours for that incident.

The Dispatch has requested a copy of Coy’s latest personnel file from the Division of Police.

Coy could not be reached for comment Wednesday. His two-story home in Union County is decorated for Christmas but now has a store-bought “No Trespassing” sign taped to the front door.

Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said at a press conference Tuesday that neither Coy nor another officer who responded but did not fire a weapon turned on their body cameras until after the shooting had occurred.

The body cameras have a 60-second “look-back” feature that captures video, but not audio. This look-back recorded the shooting, indicating the officers turned the cameras on within 60 seconds after the shooting took place.

Ginther and Columbus police Chief Thomas Quinlan are furious because division policy for the body cameras, which were a $5 million investment by the city, requires officers to have the cameras on “when dispatched or upon a self-initiated response to a Priority 1 or 2 call for service.”

The disturbance complaint on Tuesday morning was made through the division’s non-emergency phone line. Disturbances are typically dispatched as “priority three” or get to them as soon as you can get to them calls, which was the case with the Tuesday morning call.

Division policy for priority three calls was not listed online, but division policy does state that officers should activate their body cameras when calls that are not for service become”enforcement actions” or become adversarial. The camera should be turned on “at the start of an enforcement action or at the first reasonable opportunity to do so,” the policy states.

The body camera footage indicates Coy and the other officer, who has not been identified, also delayed giving medical aid to the man following the shooting, the city said in a Department of Public Safety statement released Tuesday afternoon.

Division policy says that all sworn personnel are required to render “appropriate aid and/or summon emergency medical services … as soon as it is reasonable and safe to do so.”

The body camera footage was released Wednesday afternoon, after Hill’s family viewed it privately.

John DiLoretto, whose bedroom overlooks the Oberlin Drive home in the Cranbrook neighborhood where Hill was fatally shot, said he was awakened to the sounds of an angry exchange of words outside across the street.

He said he looked outside and could see people, but couldn’t make out who. He decided to head outside to see what was going on.

“As I’m going down the stairs, I heard the gunshots — bam, bam, bam,” he said. DiLoretto said two or three shots were fired.

He went back upstairs and looked out. At that point, he said, police were trying to resuscitate a man lying on his back, parallel to the entrance of the open garage door.

A nearby neighbor, who did not want to be named, told The Dispatch the home on Oberlin Drive where the shooting occurred is owned by Bill Wadley, former Ohio State University men’s swimming coach, whose adult niece lives with him.

The neighbor said Wadley told her that his niece had expected an acquaintance of hers to drop off money early Tuesday for her to buy Christmas presents for her kids. She didn’t know anything more about who the man was or his relationship to the niece.

A memorial comprised of a row of lighted candles lined the sidewalk beside Wadley’s home. No one answered the front door for a Dispatch reporter. .

“You feel devastated that a person has died in your neighborhood, the way he did,” the neighbor woman said. “We need to remember that this was a human being that’s dead.”

DiLoretto, who is a former television personality for WSYX, (Chanel 6), has rented his home since March. He said the neighborhood has been quiet and safe even as homicides in the city have soared.

“Human beings do not surprise me anymore,” he said of the spate of gun violence this year. “Stuff happens all the time.”

Ginther said Tuesday that he asked Police Chief Thomas Quinlan to relieve Coy of duty, the division’s term for a suspension, as a result of the hearing. Quinlan later issued an update to the statement indicating Coy was made to turn in his badge and his firearm and he will have no police powers pending the outcome of the investigation, which is being conducted by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation in accordance with city policy enacted this summer.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, whose BCI agents are investigating the shooting, said in a statement Wednesday that “BCI will conduct a complete, independent and expert investigation — a search for the truth … Only the truth – the whole truth and nothing else – will result in justice.”

Yost said “every use of deadly force is serious, and the loss of life is an occasion for grief.”

Community leaders and activists expressed anger and frustration over the shooting of the unarmed Black man.

“We were outraged,” said Nana Watson, the local NAACP chapter president. “It’s another sad day in the community.”

Read more: New prosecutor in Franklin County likely means change in handling of police shootings

“Why do we have the body cameras if they aren’t going to be turned on?” Watson asked. “It begs the question, when you don’t have the body camera on and something like this happens, what’s the punishment for not having it turned on?”

Policies surrounding the use of police body cameras need to be closely examined, Watson said.

“We need an explanation as to why this occurred,” she said. “Law enforcement officers are going to have to be held accountable for their actions.”

Stephanie Hightower, the president and CEO of Columbus’ Urban League, said Tuesday is “an inflection moment in a terrible history that never seems to end.”

“Together, we have to ask ourselves: How many? How many more black people have to die at the hands of those we trust to protect us?” she said. “How many more families must mourn a devastating loss while also enduring endless questions and judgments on the behavior of their loved one? How many more moms won’t sleep at night for worry that their child might look like a fugitive to someone with a gun and a badge? How many more black men will be detained because ‘they look like someone who might have an outstanding warrant?”

State Senators Hearcel Craig and Erica Crawley, both Democrats from Columbus, issued a joint statement Wednesday, saying they were devastated and frustrated by Tuesday’s events.

“We don’t know how much you can change the hearts and minds of individuals who will continue to see Black people as a threat,” they said. “You can’t train that fear and hatred away. There is something deeply wrong within the Columbus Police Department and there needs to be answers.”

The pair of legislators did acknowledge that “many members” of the police division “honor their positions with integrity and responsibility.”

“The flagrant and malicious actions of those who abuse their authority and public trust must be swiftly and deliberately punished,” they said. “The status quo is not working for our community, and the recently developed civilian review board needs to be activated and fully engaged to ensure justice is being served.”

Columbus City Council said in a press release that council members “are beyond frustrated at this senseless death.”

“The compounding heartbreak of learning an unarmed black man was killed last night by a Columbus police officer is beyond description,” the release said. “Thoughts and prayers cannot soothe this pain.”

Tuesday morning’s shooting came 18 days after 23-year-old Casey Goodson Jr. was fatally shot outside his Northland home by Franklin County Sheriff’s SWAT deputy Jason Meade.

“I don’t know how much more this city can take,” Watson said. “(This month) has been filled with anger, sadness and disappointment towards law enforcement who are supposed to defend and protect.”

U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty called Tuesday morning’s shooting “unacceptable.”

“There are not enough words to express the pain and anger I feel that another Black man has been killed in our community at the hands of law enforcement in less than a month,” she said in a statement. “I am greatly concerned and call into question police procedures as well as the timing and inconsistent use of body cameras.”

Read more: Faith leaders angry over Casey Goodson shooting, hot potato handling

Bishop Timothy Clarke, senior pastor at First Church of God on the Southeast Side, said Columbus is currently at a crossroads.

“I really do believe that at the heart of it all is suspicions and fears brought on by years of misinformation,” Clarke said. “It is very sad.”

He said it is up to the city’s leaders and its citizens to decide where Columbus goes from here.

The Goodson investigation is being handled by Columbus police, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and is being overseen by David DeVillers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.

Yost urged anyone with information about Tuesday’s fatal shooting to call BCI at He urged anyone with information pertaining to the case to call BCI at 855-BCI-OHIO (855-224-6446).”

Dispatch reporters Dean Narciso and Holly Zachariah contributed to this report.

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