COLUMBUS, Ohio – The life of Andre Hill was commemorated Tuesday morning as family and lawmakers called for justice to be brought against the white Columbus police officer who fatally shot the 47-year-old days before Christmas.
“We don’t want your sympathy. We want justice,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said in delivering Hill's eulogy.
Dozens gathered at the First Church of God in the city’s southwest side — clad in their Sunday best and Black Lives Matter masks — to honor Hill’s life.
“We all want justice for Andre and change needs to come because, for Black people, we should not have to sacrifice our loved ones in order to be considered humans,” Hill’s sister Shawna Barrett said at the service.
Inside the church in Columbus, a photo of Hill 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.
Sharpton saluted 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.
State Sen. Hearcel Craig greeted guests at the door. The Democratic lawmaker is a minister at the church 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.
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 a 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.”
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.
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.