Police observed no threats from Andre Hill before shooting

Newly released records show an officer on the scene of last week's fatal shooting of Andre Hill did not observe any threats before a fellow officer fired at him

Racial Injustice Columbus Police
Racial Injustice Columbus Police

An officer on the scene of the fatal shooting of Andre Hill in Ohio’s capital city last week didn’t perceive any threats and didn’t see a gun, contrary to a mistaken claim by the fellow officer who killed Hill, according to records released Tuesday.

The records provide new details into the Dec. 22 shooting of 47-year-old Andre Hill, a Black man who was fatally shot by Officer Adam Coy, who is white, as Hill emerged from a garage holding a cell phone with his left hand and his right hand not visible.

The city fired Coy on Tuesday, accusing him of incompetence and “gross neglect of duty,” among other charges.

Columbus Officer Amy Detwiler said she saw a man — later identified as Hill — walk away from a car after arriving at the scene of the non-emergency call, according to a summary of her internal affairs interview released Tuesday. Coy had gotten there first. Detwiler didn't see any interaction between Hill and Coy, but said Coy told her Hill had walked into a next-door garage.

After the officers crossed over to the garage they saw Hill, with Detwiler telling investigators “she felt Mr. Hill may need assistance to enter the residence,” according to her interview.

Coy asked Hill in a “normal tone of voice” to exit the garage and Hill complied but without responding, Detwiler said.

As Hill walked out, Detwiler “did not observe any threats from Mr. Hill,” nor did she see a gun, the internal affairs report said.

“Officer Detwiler stated Officer Coy observed a firearm and yelled, 'There's a gun in his other hand, there's a gun in his other hand!'” the report said. “Officer Detwiler heard gunfire at this moment.”

No gun was found at the scene, police said.

Reports also indicate that Police Chief Thomas Quinlan felt something was off about the shooting as soon as he arrived, saw the officers and then saw the body cam video.

“I have responded to many officer-involved shooting scenes and spoken with many officers following these critical incidents,” Quinlan wrote in a Dec. 26 report. “There was something very distinct about the officers engagement following this critical incident that is difficult to describe for this letter.” He did not provide further details.

Coy's handling of the shooting “is not a ‘rookie’ mistake as a result of negligence or inadvertence," Quinlan said in his recommendation that the 17-year veteran be fired. Quinlan added that Coy's actions were “reckless and deliberate.”

A review of Coy’s personnel file shows more than three dozen complaints have been filed against him since he joined the department in January 2002, mostly for rude or abusive language with a dozen for use of force. No details about the allegations are contained in the sparse summaries the city provided from the department’s internal affairs bureau. All but a few were marked “unfounded” or “not sustained.”

Quinlan noted that he had first raised concerns about Coy in 2008, when Quinlan was his patrol lieutenant.

“If sustained improvements are not fully realized a decision whether Officer Coy is salvageable must follow,” Quinlan said, quoting from a letter he wrote.

Coy was fired Monday hours after a hearing was held to determine his employment.

“The actions of Adam Coy do not live up to the oath of a Columbus Police officer, or the standards we, and the community, demand of our officers,” according to a statement from Columbus Public Safety Director Ned Pettus Jr. “The shooting of Andre Hill is a tragedy for all who loved him in addition to the community and our Division of Police.”

Coy had the opportunity to participate in the hearing, Brian Steel, vice president of the police union, told reporters Monday. “He elected not to participate. I do not know why … I would have liked to have him here, but it’s his decision.”

Coy remains under criminal investigation for last week's shooting.

Police bodycam footage showed Hill emerging from a garage and holding up a cellphone in his left hand seconds before he was fatally shot by Coy. There is no audio because the officer hadn’t activated the body camera; an automatic “look back” feature captured the shooting without audio.

Hill lay on the garage floor for several minutes without any officer on the scene coming to his aid.

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