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Andre Hill, Black man killed by Ohio police, remembered at memorial service; Rev. Al Sharpton among speakers

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 1/5/2021 Bethany Bruner, USA TODAY
a person holding a sign posing for the camera: Andre Hill's daughter, Karissa, left, and sister Shawna Barnett wear T-shirts calling for "Justice for Andre" at a press conference on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio. © Andrew Welsh-Huggins/Associated Press Andre Hill's daughter, Karissa, left, and sister Shawna Barnett wear T-shirts calling for "Justice for Andre" at a press conference on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — André Hill's name and the word funeral don't go together in the same sentence, Hill's eldest sister, Shawna Barnett said Tuesday at his memorial service.

"We need change now," Barnett said of the shooting by a former Columbus officer that lead to Hill's death.  

"He was my gentle giant. He was my rock," said his only child, daughter Karissa Hill. She said the loss of her father was so sudden she still expects to see him come home from work.

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"This is a void in my heart that I will never get back," she said. She broke off her eulogy, saying she had a lot more to say but just couldn't go on.

Family and friends made it clear, though, that Hill was a man who had passion. 

A passion for cooking, a passion for deep thinking and learning, chess games, fishing, and joking and being the life of the party.

But there was no greater passion than what Hill had for his family and those with whom he "readily shared his love." 

Hill, 47, was fatally shot by former Columbus police officer Adam Coy on Dec. 22.

Attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Hill family, walked the congregation at Tuesday's memorial service through Hill's final moments. He said five minutes and 11 seconds after Hill was shot, he was handcuffed on the garage floor. 

"As he lay struggling for life, the police offered him no medical assistance. Not any humanity," Crump said. "What was his crime?"

Crump said he and Hill's family are demanding justice, equality and the ability to have the rights that were described in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

"America, that means Black people too. America, that means Andre Hill too. That means Andre Hill’s life mattered. We will demand justice for Andre Maurice Hill. We will demand it now. We will demand it until we get justice," Crump said.

Hill's friend, Tracy Smith, said the first thing he remembered most about Hill was his voice. He said he couldn't believe at the time that Hill was only 14.  

Hill was not an arguer or fighter like Smith was, but rather a lover and a voice of reason, Smith said. 

"He never got into a fight, he never argued with anyone. He was never disrespectful," Smith said. "I had the voice of reason and that was Andre Hill."

"Andre’s voice lives on," Smith continued. "Now it’s even louder than a bomb."

Before the service began, a slideshow of photographs played above Hill's open casket inside the sanctuary of the First Church of God. The photographs spanned Hill's entire life, including photographs of him with family, holding his grandchildren as newborns and even a photograph of a young hill wearing a University of Michigan T-shirt. 

"One of the strongest brothers on the block, one of the tallest trees in the forest, one of the finest men in this city," Bishop Timothy Clarke said. "This city is better because he lived among us. He shouldn’t have had to leave the way he left."

Hill, an unarmed Black man, was shot and killed by Coy shortly before 2 a.m. on Dec. 22 at the entrance to the garage of a home  on the city's Northwest Side. He had been an expected guest at the home, bringing money to a woman there for Christmas presents for her children.

During Tuesday's service, Rep. Joyce Beatty said she flew back to Columbus from Washington D.C., landing at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, in order to bring a message of hope and comfort to Hill's family as the newly elected chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

"He believed that all men and all women were created equal and should be treated equal," Beatty said. "His death will not merely be a rallying cry in protest. His death will not be in vain. His legacy will be upheld by all."

Beatty said the Congressional Black Caucus will open Wednesday's meeting with a prayer for Hill and will follow that with a push for an aggressive police reform agenda to end racial bias and excessive force in memory of Hill and others who came before him. 

Beatty, State Representative Erica Crawley and City Council President Shannon Hardin all presented resolutions from their respective legislative bodies honoring Hill and his legacy. 

"Cynicism is a rational emotion right now," Hardin said. "Being Black in America gives us cause to be cynical and we must say enough is enough. If we are our brother's keeper, we need as a community justice for Andre."

Both Hardin and Crawley said they support Andre's Law, a legislative effort in Ohio to hold law enforcement officers accountable for not using body cameras properly to ensure accountability, including potential criminal penalties if they are not turned on properly. Crawley committed to bringing the legislation to the Republican-controlled state General Assembly and working for its passage.

"We won’t turn a blind eye against these injustices," Hardin said. 

Rev. Al Sharpton is also expected to speak at the service.

Coy, who has since been fired by the city, fired multiple shots at Hill within 10 seconds of their interaction. No aid was provided by Coy or other officers for several minutes.

There are ongoing investigations internally by Columbus police into the actions of other officers who responded to the scene, as well as an investigation by the Columbus Division of Fire as to why it took more than 15 minutes for paramedics to respond. 

An investigation is also being conducted by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation into potential criminal charges. The United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio will review that investigation for possible civil rights violations and federal charges.

Andre Hill shooting: Columbus officer who fatally shot unarmed Black man has history of excessive force, misconduct

Following the service, there will be a public procession through the Brentnell neighborhood on the city's South Side, an area where Hill enjoyed spending time. Hill's casket will be carried by a horse-drawn carriage in the procession, which will end at the Brentnell Community Center. A balloon release ceremony will take place at the community center. Both the procession and the balloon release are open to the public. Masks and social distancing are requested. 

Tuesday's service is being held in the same church where 23-year-old Casey Goodson Jr.'s life was celebrated on Dec. 23. 

Goodson was fatally shot Dec. 3 by Franklin County Sheriff's SWAT deputy Jason Meade. The investigation into that shooting is being handled by Columbus police, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division under the oversight of U.S. Attorney David DeVillers of the Southern District of Ohio.

Follow Bethany Bruner on Twitter: @bethany_bruner

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Andre Hill, Black man killed by Ohio police, remembered at memorial service; Rev. Al Sharpton among speakers

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