Police Killing Leads to Changes in Columbus, Ohio
Dayton attorney Michael Wright and team negotiated a $10 million settlement
Published in 2021 Ohio Super Lawyers magazine
on June 2, 2021
Updated on June 3, 2021
Andre Hill, a 47-year-old resident of Columbus, Ohio, was walking out of the garage of a Northwest Columbus house on Dec. 22, 2020, unarmed and holding his cell phone, when he was shot and killed by a Columbus police officer.
A neighbor had placed a non-emergency call, asking police to check out a car that they didn’t recognize being turned on and off.
“Mr. Hill’s vehicle was having problems being started,” says plaintiff’s personal injury attorney Michael Wright, with Wright & Schulte in Dayton, Ohio. “The neighbor, not recognizing a car in the neighborhood, called the police—a 311 call. It wasn’t a 911 call. … The officer confronted Mr. Hill when he was standing in the garage. And the officer, for some unexplainable reason, shot Mr. Hill four times.”
Wright, along with law partner Richard Schulte at the firm’s Vandalia, Ohio, office, and Benjamin Crump, with Ben Crump Law in Tallahassee, Florida, negotiated a $10 million settlement with the city of Columbus for Andre Hill’s family. Wright believes it is, by a substantial amount, the largest such settlement in the city’s history.
Adam Coy, the then-Columbus police officer who killed Hill, said he thought Hill had a gun. Coy, who is white, was fired and indicted on charges of murder, felonious assault and reckless homicide. He did not turn on his body cam until after he shot Hill, who was Black; however, the camera had a 60-second playback feature, so there was video—but not audio—of the minute prior to the shooting.
“Had we not had that, then, I think that it may be a different story,” says Wright. “Mr. Hill would have been dead, so we wouldn’t have known anything but the officer’s version.”
No medical aid was offered to Hill for more than 10 minutes after he was shot. He died shortly after arriving at a hospital.
In addition to agreeing to the settlement, the city of Columbus pledged to improve its police body cams and passed “Andre’s Law,” requiring officers to turn on body cams during any interaction with the public, and to offer medical aid when needed, or face criminal charges.
“I believe the city leaders did accept responsibility,” Wright says. “And that, I believe is a lot of the reason why we were able to get the case resolved.”
The city also agreed to rename the Brentnell Community Center’s gym—where Hill often spent time with his daughter—the Andre Hill Gymnasium.
“Leaving that continual legacy of his name being part of the community center that he grew up in, I felt that was important to them,” Wright says.
There’s one more thing Wright wants to see. “We want de-escalation instead of use of deadly force, especially in a situation like this—this was an unarmed man,” he says. “There was no reason to shoot and kill him almost immediately upon coming in contact with him.
“This shouldn’t have happened.”