COLUMBUS, Ohio—A police officer fatally shot an unarmed Black man, who was only holding a cellphone, while responding to a noise complaint here on Tuesday morning, authorities said.
The Columbus Police Department said the shooting happened after cops responded to a non-emergency call in the early hours about a “man sitting in an SUV for an extended period of time” and repeatedly turning his car on and off.
The incident was supposed to be captured on body-worn cameras, but both officers who responded didn’t turn their devices on until after the shooting. Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said during a Tuesday press conference that he’d asked Columbus Police chief Thomas Quinlan “to remove the officer involved [from] duty and turn in his badge and gun.” The officer, however, will still be paid due to his contract.
“It is unacceptable, to me and the community, that the officers did not turn on their cameras,” Ginther said. “Let me be clear. If you’re not going to turn on your body-worn camera, you cannot serve and protect the people of Columbus.”
“The community is exhausted,” he added.
Police said the body-cams had a 60-second “look back” feature that captured the shooting on video, but the “look back” feature doesn’t record audio. The silent video is expected to be released as early as Wednesday after it has been shared with the deceased 47-year-old’s family, Ginther said.
Neither the victim nor the cop involved have been publicly identified, but a local NBC affiliate named the officer as Adam Coy, an 18-year veteran. According to the Columbus Dispatch, which featured Coy in a 2015 story on central Ohio police misconduct, he was caught on video three years earlier bashing a stopped driver’s head into a car hood four times, an incident also witnessed by a college student.
The officer was suspended for 160 hours and cited for force “excessive for the situation,” but, as has so often proved to be the case for cops accused of violent misconduct, kept his job.
Quinlan, who did not attend the press conference, said in a statement that he was “troubled by the preliminary facts”—particularly the decision not to turn on the cameras despite department policy.
“The Division invested millions of dollars in these cameras for the express purpose of creating a video and audio record of these kinds of encounters," Quinlan said. “They provide transparency and accountability, and protect the public, as well as officers when the facts are in question.”
Investigators say the neighbor called police at 1:37 a.m. to report a man sitting in an SUV parked on the street in northwest Columbus.
A middle-aged white man who lives on the block said Tuesday he had placed the 911 call that brought police to the neighborhood. The man, who refused to give his name, said he wanted to make it clear that he made the call because he was woken up by a car engine that the driver kept turning on and off for an extended period.
The man said that before he placed the 911 call, he took note that the engine noise was that of a Chevy SUV parked on the street.
“Loud exhaust. It ran all night, then it shut off, and then it turned on again,” he told The Daily Beast. “I thought, ‘It’s been out there all night. Why’s it out there all night?’ I called 911.”
The man said the idling SUV seemed out of place in the neighborhood, a quiet, middle-class area just west of The Ohio State University’s campus.
“This neighborhood doesn’t have that kind of problem,” he said. “There’s no suspicious people driving around.”
The neighbor said after he called 911, the driver moved his SUV two driveways to the east. He said that when police arrived, he directed them to the SUV, where another neighbor came out of her own home and said she knew the driver, apparently the deceased.
“She said he was a friend or a relative,” the man told The Daily Beast. “I said, ‘If he’s a friend, he shouldn’t be out there.’”
When police arrived, the neighbor said, they told him to return to his home.
“I was on the middle of the yard. I heard ‘pop, pop, pop.’ No glass, no screams. I said, ‘What the hell’s going on out here?’”
According to police, when officers arrived, they found a “garage door open and a man inside.” Preliminary investigations indicated the man was visiting someone inside the home, police said.
According to a review of the “look back” footage from one of the officer’s cameras, the 47-year-old then walked toward the officers with a cell phone in his left hand. His right hand, however, was not visible.
“One officer fired his weapon, striking the 47-year-old man, who later died at 2:25 a.m. at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital,” police said.
It wasn’t clear what prompted the officer to fire his weapon and police say no weapons were recovered at the scene. Police also admitted the footage showed “a delay in [the] rendering of first-aid to the man.”
“I am deeply saddened, frustrated, angry, demanding answers of what happened in our community earlier this morning,” Ginther said. “I am committed to transparency and accountability in our Division of Police.”
In his statement, Quinlan called it “a tragedy on many levels.” “Most importantly a life has been lost. That must be our focus going forward,” he said.
The Ohio Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation is leading the investigation. The city is also looking into the incident per police policy whenever an officer is involved in a shooting.
On Tuesday afternoon, Ginther said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost asked him to delay the release of the body camera footage until the BCI had the chance to interview at least one of the two officers involved. Ginther, however, said he planned to release it after the Wednesday interview and after the 47-year-old’s family had viewed it.
“We know that BCI will conduct a thorough, independent investigation,” Quinlan said. “We promise that we will provide as much transparency as possible on our part, both with investigators and the public. Our community deserves the facts. If evidence determines that laws or policies were violated, officers will be held accountable.”
According to the Columbus Dispatch, a handful of protesters appeared at the Tuesday press conference, shouting over reporters and demanding answers about yet another tragic shooting. The incident comes weeks after Casey Goodson, a 23-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy in Columbus.
“I would like to know the identity of the victim,” another neighbor, a middle-aged white woman who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Daily Beast. “I’m heartbroken that another family has lost an innocent Black man.”