On December 22, 2020, a 19-year white veteran of the Columbus Police Department—44-year-old Adam Coy—shot and killed a 47-year-old African-American man named Andre’ Maurice Hill in his own garage. Coy and a fellow officer had responded to a 911 “non-emergency” call at the Hill residence. Mr. Hill was fatally shot as he walked toward his garage entrance with a cell phone in his hand where Coy was standing with his service weapon drawn. Coy opened fire. Andre’ Hill immediately fell to the ground. Neither officer attempted to render medical aid to Hill as he lay on the ground, dying. Coy could be heard cursing Hill as the officer instructed him to roll over so he could be handcuffed.
Andre’ Hill’s killing marked the second shooting death of a black man by a white Columbus, Ohio police officer during a three-week period in December.
On December 4, 2020, 23-year-old Casey Goodson was shot and killed by a 17-year white veteran of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department named Justin Meade. Goodson was armed with a legally licensed firearm as he returned home from a dental appointment carrying Subway sandwiches in his hand. Goodson was not a suspect in any criminal activity when Officer Meade gunned him down.
Body Cameras Not Activated
As in the case of Officer Coy’s fatal shooting, Officer Meade did not have his body camera on when he fatally shot Goodson just outside of the deceased man’s home.
There are three common denominators in these two fatal police shootings. Both black men were not suspects in any criminal activity (one had a cell phone in his hand while the other had Subway sandwiches in his), neither man made any threatening gestures toward the officers, and veteran white police officers killed both.
The facts surrounding each shooting death illustrates that neither officer had any qualms about killing innocent black men.
Religion of Death
In fact, in a 2018 sermon that Officer Meade delivered to a convention of the Ohio State Association of Free Will Baptists, he made this point quite evident. The SWAT officer told his fellow white Christians that engaging in on-the-job violence is a “righteous release.” He followed that judgmental bias with this evangelical outpouring:
“I work for the sheriff’s office … I hunt people – it’s a great job, I love it. I worked this job 14 years, you know I ain’t never been hit clean in the face one time? It’s a fact. It ain’t ’cause I’m so good … You know why? I learned long ago I gotta throw the first punch. And I learned long ago I gotta throw the first punch. And I learned long ago why I’m justified in throwing the first punch . Don’t look up here like, ‘Oh, police brutality.’ People I hit you wish you could hit, trust me.”
That was clearly a call by Meade to the law enforcement community to “shoot first and let God sort it out.” And his white congregants firmly support this Trumpian police attitude of “you gotta be rough with them” in the wake of the Goodson shooting death.
Similarly, Officer Coy’s police record is infected with a history of “complaints and issues of excessive force.”
Police Violence is a National Epidemic
Policing and systemic racism go hand and glove in Columbus, as in many other cities across the country experiencing a narrowing white population and frequent calls inciting fear against “the other” growing non-white population. Predominantly white police officers in these cities tend to target non-whites for arrests and use violence to “protect and serve” the white community.
This kind of racist policing resides deep in the soul of too many American cities, as evidenced by the growing popularity of the Proud Boys, Boogaloos, heavily armed militias, Deep State adherents, and QAnon conspiracy theorists. Thousands of racist white police officers, if not more, either belong to or share the political ideology of these extreme racist groups.
In the wake of the Casey Goodson shooting death, Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin spoke to the media about the issue of systemic racism in law enforcement as exemplified by Officers Coy and Meade:
“Casey’s case is just another reminder that the work continues and that racism is everywhere and we have to do the hard work as a nation to root it out. Racism is a part of this country, part of our cities and a part of just who we are. And we can’t allow the challenges and how ubiquitous it is to overwhelm us in terms of where we go from here.”
Columbus is a city of nearly 900,000.
Since 2016, white police officers, including Coy and Meade, have killed six black men and one black teenager. 2018 Columbus police statistics show that 55 percent of the city’s police use of force was against black people.
The war on black people being waged by Columbus law enforcement has become so dire that the Columbus City Council declared racism a public health crisis.
War Against Black Communities
When black men cannot safely stand in front of their homes or their garages without being shot and killed by the white police officers for no reason whatsoever, we have a war against the city’s black community by the police.
Hana Abdur-Rahim, a Black Lives Matter activist and co-founder of Black Abolitionists Collective of Ohio, along with other protestors, hung a sign in front of City Hall after the Andre’ Hill shooting death that read: “Columbus is not safe for Black People.”
This continued violence against the black community is a historical remnant of slavery. President Donald J. Trump and his outgoing Attorney General William P. Barr, along with “tough on crime” politicians, have intentionally reinforced this racial violence with calls for more “police brutality” and extreme “law and order” messaging.
Race-baiting politicians and “tough on crime” elected officials have effectively made being black a “reasonable suspicion” of criminal wrongdoing, regardless of how innocent the activity black people may be. They have made it legitimate for white people to call 911 against black people for no other reason than they do not like black people.
Even black police officers in Columbus are afraid to go out in public because of the racial tensions white police officers have created in the black communities. They do not know if they will be attacked or ridiculed, or the target fake 911 call. Some of these officers have felt compelled to leave the force and move out of the State of Ohio.
What have we become as a society when black police officers pack up their belongings and move their families out of state because they have become “targets” of racism by their fellow white officers?
This is the tragic face of police misconduct in America. Columbus is only an example of what is happening in cities across this nation.
Police Reforms Necessary Priority for America
Police reform must be the first priority of President Joe Biden’s Justice Department, and its civil rights division must vigorously go after police officers who routinely violate black and brown people’s civil rights in this country.
And we are not talking about perfunctory “investigations” by the FBI.
There must be indictments and prosecutions of racist white police officers who kill innocent, unarmed black people. There must be an immediate restoration of “consent decrees” against state and local police departments that do little, if anything, to rid themselves of racist officers and practices. Finally, the next President must lead the charge for legislation abolishing qualified immunity that protects bad cops from civil lawsuits and financial liability. Only through the real threat of incarceration and financial ruin will force the bad apples in our police forces across the country to find a new profession.
Most Americans believe the police are “good cops.” Now is the time for those good cops to stand up and support reform.