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Activists Want White Officer In Columbus Charged In Black Man's Death

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

In Columbus, Ohio, city officials have fired police officer Adam Coy. Coy, who is white, shot and killed Andre Hill, a Black man, during an early morning, nonemergency call just over a week ago. But some local activists say the firing, it isn't enough. They want the officer to be indicted. From member station WOSU, Nick Evans reports.

NICK EVANS, BYLINE: Just after 1 a.m. on December 22, two Columbus police officers responded to a nonemergency call on Oberlin Drive. It's an unremarkable suburban street lined with quaint, single-family homes from the early 1960s. A neighbor had called police about an SUV repeatedly cranking up and shutting off. When he arrived, Officer Adam Coy saw Andre Hill walking from an SUV into an open garage. According to another officer on the scene, Coy calmly asked Hill to walk out. Body camera footage shows Coy shooting Hill just seconds later and then Coy and other officers failing to provide first aid as Hill lay on the ground. According to documents released this week, officers handcuffed Hill, who was unarmed. Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther seemed stunned after seeing footage of the shooting. He was particularly unnerved by the officers who failed to render aid to Hill.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANDREW GINTHER: Were literally no attempts to revive and aid this man who had committed no crime, was dying. That is a stunning disregard for life.

EVANS: The incident comes less than three weeks after a sheriff's deputy shot and killed Casey Goodson Jr., another Black Columbus resident who was shot entering his home. In this incident, Mayor Ginther called for Coy to be fired. And on Monday, the city's public safety director did just that. Hours later, dozens gathered at the site of the shooting.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Say his name.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Andre Hill.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Say his name.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Andre Hill.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Say his name.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Andre Hill.

EVANS: Hana Abdur-Rahim helps lead a bail relief group called the Central Ohio Freedom Fund. At the demonstration, like other protesters, she turned her focus on the neighbor who called the police in the first place.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HANA ABDUR-RAHIM: Andre Hill deserved a mechanic, not the cops.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yes.

ABDUR-RAHIM: He was having car trouble. He didn't deserve a death sentence. If you were that much of a concerned neighbor, you could've went up to his car and asked him is he OK.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yes.

EVANS: And Abdur-Rahim told the crowd that simply firing Adam Coy isn't enough. She wants to see him charged with murder. Whether he'll face criminal charges is now in the hands of state and federal investigators. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is looking into whether Coy's use of force was unlawful. And the U.S. attorney is reviewing the case for potential civil rights charges. As for what should replace that early morning call to 911, Hana Abdur-Rahim says part of the answer is residents asking directly if someone needs help before calling the police. She also wants local officials to set up alternatives.

ABDUR-RAHIM: It's on the city to provide resources to the community to have ways to contact, you know, someone for a nonemergency resource, whether that's a mental health crisis or whether that's, you know, I am having a fight with my spouse. The police don't always have to come.

EVANS: And that's a message that's being stressed all across the country as politicians and residents wrestle with the best way to handle calls for assistance. For NPR News, I'm Nick Evans in Columbus.

(SOUNDBITE OF TAYLOR MCFERRIN SONG, "POSTPARTUM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.