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.
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.
The Rev. Al Sharpton delivered Hill’s eulogy, saluting Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and other city officials for ordering the firing of Coy less than a week after he shot Hill. But he said it’s not enough.
“We cannot have a precedent that if you kill us, you just lose your job and keep living your life as you were,” Sharpton told mourners.
Hill’s daughter, Karissa Hill, broke down in tears while speaking about her father on stage.
“He was my gentle giant. He was my best friend,” she said. “We had special bond that nobody understood.”
A city council member introduced a 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.
“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.
Ginther, U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, state Rep. Erica Crawley were among a number of lawmakers and leaders in attendance.
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.”
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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 laying 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.
--By FARNOUSH AMIRI and ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, Report for America/Associated Press