Rev. Al Sharpton demands justice at Andre Hill funeral: ‘No more excuses’

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In a eulogy for Andre Hill, the Black Ohio grandfather killed in a police-involved shooting two days before Christmas, national civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton demanded the now-fired officer who fatally shot Hill, face criminal charges and repeated the refrain, “no more excuses.”

The funeral for the 47-year-old Hill was held on Tuesday at the First Church of God in Columbus, Ohio, the same house of worship where Casey Goodson, a 23-year-old Black man who was shot on the doorstep of his Columbus, Ohio, home Dec. 4 by a sheriff’s deputy, was mourned.

The casket holding Hill’s body was placed in front of the church altar between a blown-up photo of Hill and a quilt bearing his likeness and those of other Black people killed in confrontations with police — including 12-year-old Tamir Rice who was shot by a Cleveland police officer in 2014 while playing with a toy gun in a park, and Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician shot in March by Louisville, Kentucky, police serving a search warrant on her home.

Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network civil rights organization, began the eulogy by saluting Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, who attended the funeral, and city leaders for their swift action in firing Adam Coy from the Columbus Police Department six days after he opened fire when Hill emerged from the garage of a friend’s home holding a cellphone in his left hand.

“I saluted, but I’m not satisfied with it,” Sharpton said. “The firing of this policeman is a personnel decision. That is not a legal decision. If anyone in this church walked out of this church and unjustifiably, which means not in self-defense, kills somebody, we would not go to their job and get them fired, we would go to the court and get them prosecuted. But it’s not the mayor, it’s the judge that I want this cop to answer to.”

Sharpton cited a string of deaths of Black people at the hands of police in recent months, including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Taylor. He said police involved in each case issued excuses to justify their use of deadly forces.

“No more excuses,” Sharpton said. “We’re tired of the excuses. We’re no longer going to buy the excuses because the Bible said ‘the blood of the brothers is crying from the ground.’ Andre’s blood is crying from the ground and we are not going to accept excuses this time.”

Hill’s family has called on prosecutors to criminally charge Coy in Hill’s death and for the officers who, according to the family’s attorney Ben Crump, left Hill in handcuffs for 13 minutes without providing any first-aid help, to be disciplined.

“The one thing I know is that on the other side of saying no more excuses from the system is we’ve got to stop making excuses for ourselves continuing to tolerate this,” Sharpton said.

Hill’s closest loved ones also spoke, describing Hill as a family man with a gregarious personality.

“At this time, funeral and Andre should not be in the same sentence. They don’t go together,” said Hill’s sister, Shawna Barnett. “He was taken away from us way too soon in the prime of his life.

“What I can tell you is about the essence of my brother, his character, his smile, his laugh and his love of family and life, and his dedication to see that we were all taken care of is what made those memories great,” Barnett said. “He had the determination and the strength to make the best of things even when things weren’t going his way. He would find a way to make things work.”

Hill’s daughter, Karissa Hill, 27, who lived with her father along with her three young children, described her father as “my gentle giant.”

“He was my rock. He was my support. He was my best friend. We had a special bond that nobody understood,” she said through tears. “I just know that anything I went through in life, anything that I wanted to do …. my dad was always there for me. Some of this is still unbelievable. Sometimes I feel like he’s at work and just coming home any minute. This is very sudden. There’s a void in my heart that I’ll never get back.”

Hill’s funeral came after the Columbus Police Department last week released body-camera video from police officers who responded to the scene of the Dec. 22 shooting. The footage showed officers handcuffing an apparently lifeless Hill and then standing by without rendering first aid.

Following the shooting, a woman came out of the house and told police, “He was bringing me Christmas money. He didn’t do anything,” according to the body-camera video.

After viewing the video, Crump said it confirmed the “unnecessary, unjustifiable and senseless shooting of Andre Hill.”

Hill was fatally shot after Coy and another officer, Amy Detweiler, responded to a 311 non-emergency call for a noise complaint, according to Columbus Police Department officials.

Coy did not turn his body camera on until after he fired shots at Hill, police officials said. But his camera automatically activated and recorded 60 seconds of the episode without sound.

Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan released a video statement on Thursday saying his initial reaction to seeing the video “was anger and deep disappointment.”

“I know it is horrifying to everyone who looks at it,” Quinlan said. “One of the core values of the Columbus Division of Police is compassion. And the body-worn camera video released today shows little evidence of that.”

“What was his crime?” Crump asked while addressing mourners at the funeral.

Members of the local Fraternal Order of Police had attended a hearing in December after the shooting about Coy’s employment on behalf of the officer, The Associated Press reported. Coy “elected not to participate” in the hearing, said Brian Steel, vice president of the police union, according to the AP.

Since the shooting, the Columbus, Ohio, police union has asked for more medical training and equipment to render aid.

Michael Wright, another attorney representing Hill’s family, alleged last week that the police department had numerous chances to terminate Coy in the past, adding that an investigation done by his office reportedly found 90 complaints against Coy dating back to 2001.

Ohio Rep. Joyce Beatty, the newly elected chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, also spoke at Hill’s funeral and vowed to seek justice for Hill in Washington.

“I will not only stand in this church, I will go on the United State’s House floor and demand justice,” Beatty said. “His death will not merely be a rallying cry at protests. His death will not be in vain. His memory will not be forgotten. Instead, his life will be celebrated as a call for justice.”