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Grand Jury In Ohio Indicts Ex-Police Officer On Murder Charges

NOEL KING, HOST:

A few days before Christmas last year, a man named Adam Coy killed a man named Andre Hill in Columbus, Ohio. Coy was a police officer, and he is white. Andre Hill was a Black man. And unlike Coy, he wasn't carrying a gun. This morning, Coy is behind bars after a grand jury indicted him on murder charges. Nick Evans from member station WOSU has the story.

NICK EVANS, BYLINE: Two counts of dereliction of duty, felonious assault, murder - those were the charges announced Wednesday by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. He stressed most officers are honorable public servants. At the same time, he insisted on the importance of accountability.

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DAVE YOST: Only by holding a bad actor accountable can that virtue be sustained. Here's what I mean in plain English - same rules for everybody.

EVANS: Last December, Adam Coy responded to an early morning nonemergency call. Less than 10 seconds after approaching him, Coy shot and killed Andre Hill. According to his family, Hill was dropping off money with a friend for Christmas. It wasn't until after he pulled the trigger that Coy turned on his body camera. The other officer on the scene told investigators she didn't perceive a threat as Hill walked out of the garage holding a cellphone up in the air. Later, video from the scene shows officers failing to offer first aid to Hill for about 10 minutes while he lay on the ground dying. City officials moved quickly to fire Coy, citing the body camera and failure to render aid. Activists and the city council president called for Coy's arrest. Days after the shooting, Hill's daughter, Karissa, said she believed things would have played out differently if it was a Black officer shooting a white man.

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KARISSA HILL: I feel like they would be in prison or in jail right now. And instead, I have to do all these press conferences and share my dad's life with you guys just for people to make a decision that this was inhumane and that these officers should be in jail. It's just disgusting.

EVANS: The state attorney general's office handled the investigation thanks to an agreement with the city of Columbus. The agreement cites a lack of accountability in police use-of-force cases. Hana Abdur-Rahim helps lead a bail relief organization called the Columbus Freedom Fund. She knows the city's former prosecutor never secured an indictment after a white officer killed a Black resident. That prosecutor was in office for 24 years.

HANA ABDUR-RAHIM: This is a historical moment. It's showing that community organizing works. And the city is - it seems like the city is starting to slowly listen to us.

EVANS: Abdur-Rahim says she and other organizers won't be satisfied until there's a conviction. And she's quick to note the case against Coy isn't the only one they're watching. In a separate incident last December, a white sheriff's deputy named Jason Meade shot and killed Casey Goodson Jr., a Black man, as he was entering his home.

ABDUR-RAHIM: We want Jason Meade fired. He still works for Franklin County Sheriff's Office. Adam Coy has been fired and now indicted. So we want those same steps to happen in the murder of Casey Goodson Jr. as well. So we want justice all around the board.

EVANS: In a statement, Adam Coy's attorney insisted his client must be judged, quote, "through the lens of a reasonable officer, not with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight." Ohio Attorney General Yost was blunt about his assessment of the facts in the case.

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YOST: Let me be clear that I believe the evidence in this case supports the indictment, and my office will vigorously prosecute this case.

EVANS: Coy will be in court later today for an initial appearance and bail hearing. His attorney says he will plead not guilty. For NPR News, I'm Nick Evans in Columbus. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.