Andre Hill laid to rest as family, lawmakers lament Black deaths

Farnoush Amiri and Andrew Welsh-Huggins
Report For America/The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As light snow fell around the Ohio church Tuesday morning, Andre Hill’s family, friends and strangers angry about his death — clad in their Sunday best and Black Lives Matter masks — walked in to honor his life.

Inside the church in Columbus, a photo of Hill, 47, surrounded by the faces of Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor and the other Black people killed by authorities in recent years leaned against the stage next to his open casket. A white mark was taped on every

other chair to facilitate social distancing during the corona­virus pandemic.

State Sen. Hearcel Craig greeted guests at the door. The Democratic lawmaker is a minister at southwest Columbus’ The Church of God, where Hill’s service was taking place.

“This is the second time in three weeks I have been here to honor the life of a Black man taken by this city’s officials,” Craig said.

The first was for the funeral of 23-year-old Casey Goodson Jr., who was killed by a Franklin County Sheriff’s Office deputy on Dec. 4.

‘Enough is enough’: Scarcely three weeks later, Columbus Police Officer Adam Coy can be seen in bodycam footage fatally shooting Hill early Dec. 22 as Hill emerged from a garage holding a cellphone in his left hand with his right hand obscured. He was visiting a family friend at the time.

“Being Black in America gives us cause to be cynical, and we must say enough is enough,” Shannon Hardin, the Democratic chair of the Columbus City Council, said at the beginning of Hill’s service.

Hardin also announced a city council resolution called Andre’s Law that would ensure Columbus police officers use their body cameras accurately by turning them on before shootings take place and to give victims aid within an appropriate timeframe.

“We know that Andre Hill was indeed our brother, but the question bears repeating itself: Am I my brother’s keeper? Are we our brother’s keeper?” he said. “If we are our brother’s keeper, then we, as a community, need justice for Andre. If we are our brother’s keeper, we won’t turn a blind eye to these injustices against Black men and Black women.”

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, state Rep. Erica Crawley were among a number of lawmakers and leaders in attendance.

‘A call for justice’: Beatty, a Columbus Democrat and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, noted that Hill died wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt, which she called a symbol of resistance against excessive police force.

“His death will not merely be a rallying cry at protests. His death will not be in vain. His memory will not be forgotten,” Beatty said. “Instead his life will be celebrated as a call for justice, his legacy upheld by all.”

In the moments after Hill was fatally shot, additional bodycam footage shows two other Columbus officers rolled Hill over and put handcuffs on him before leaving him alone again. None of them, according to the footage released Thursday, offered any first aid even though Hill was barely moving, groaning and bleeding while lying on the garage floor.

Coy, who had a long history of complaints from citizens, was fired Dec. 28 for failing to activate his body camera before the confrontation and for not providing medical aid to Hill.

Beyond an internal Columbus Police Department investigation, Ohio’s attorney general, the U.S. attorney for central Ohio and the FBI have begun their own probes into the shooting.

— Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.