Adrienne Hood stood before a crowded park amphitheater on an 80-degree day in Ohio. Officers from the Columbus Division of Police had recently shot and killed her son, Henry Green V — a 23-year-old who left behind a big, loving family and long-term girlfriend. Her attorney, Sean Walton, recounted the details of the questionable shooting. Hood shook her head slowly and angrily at the ground as he spoke.
At dusk on June 6, 2016, one month prior, the community of South Linden had been busy with family activity when Officers Jason Bare and Zachary Rosen — dressed in plainclothes and driving an unmarked SUV — saw Henry, called "Bub" by his family, and his friend Christian Rutledge. One block away from a school, Bub and Christian were on foot and approaching the house where a neighbor lived with his young daughter. The unmarked car circled the block.
According to CPD, Bub was holding a gun that he refused to drop when ordered.
According to Sean Walton, multiple witnesses overlooked or ignored by CPD said they did not see him holding a gun and that Bare and Rosen failed to identify themselves as police before they approached and opened rounds. Bub was shot seven times. It wasn't until his dying friend was in handcuffs on the sidewalk that Christian Rutledge recognized the men as officers.
In September, Officer Bryan Mason shot and killed 13-year-old Ty'Re King, sparking further questions about CPD brutality. Bare and Rosen were operating as surveillance for the Community Safety Initiative (formerly known as the Summer Safety Initiative, among other names), a mayor-endorsed program that increases officer presence in "vulnerable" neighborhoods throughout summer months — areas already overpoliced, residents say. The Department of Justice in 1999 found that the department had violated the civil rights of black people, and CPD fought the claims with help from the city and the wealthy police union.
When it was Hood's turn to describe her son, she locked eyes with the crowd. "My son was the fifth — Henry Lewis Green V. Lifeline, bloodline, cut off. For what?" she asked.
During the rallies, marches, and press conferences that have followed, Hood has denounced CPD tactics and the "safety" program, contested the narrative put forth by police about the June 6 shooting, and questioned the close relationship between CPD and the prosecutor's office — which will present a case against the officers involved before a grand jury.
Since last summer, Hood has allowed me to trail her family and serve as witness to a wretched process. She has walked into police headquarters, helped disrupt a city-council meeting, contacted legislators and activists, and tenaciously researched state and federal laws. The community sees her as a beacon of strength and a justice warrior for her family, Columbus, and all affected by police violence.
For Lenny, Hood explained how she — a twenty-year member of the U.S. military — became a revolutionary mother of the movement.
Alli Maloney: Two plainclothes officers shot Bub. According to CPD, what was Henry doing on that day?
Adrienne Hood: Standing on a corner, brandishing a gun. They approached, said who they were, and instead of him putting down his gun, he fired at them. So they fired back. That's what they put out there.
AM: Within hours, statements released named officers Bare and Rosen as "victims" and Bub as the suspect.
AH: People take what the media says and they run with it. I was guilty of that before I was in this situation. You hear Linden, you think drug dealers, gangbangers. The "standing on the corner" narrative — if you're not from Linden, you're automatically going to go, "Oh, well the only people that stand on a corner are drug dealers or gang members." But he was never standing just on a corner. He was walking across the street when they came flying down it. The narrative that [CPD] put out there was to put their officers as the victims — period, point blank.
AM: Why is their theory not plausible?
AH: I raised my children to be productive in society, to respect authority. I have a chain of command that I answer to, and that regimented thinking, it's a part of me. It is a part of my nature, and I instill that in my kids. For them to say that my son just blatantly disobeyed, disrespected what they were saying — no. Nope. That's quite the opposite of any of my children.
When I was on active duty, my job was to supply weapons. I had just separated from their [Bub and his sister Skylah's] dad. They went to work with me when I had late nights; I picked them up from the day care, we went back to my job. They helped me count weapons. We did magazines. Weapons are not anything new to my children, cause they've been around them basically all of their life. [Bub] doesn't have a problem in handling a weapon. He took the permit class. He goes to the range. Having a weapon, using a weapon, familiarity with a weapon, he's not ignorant to that. He had never acted crazy before. Never.
Because it's two white guys in a vehicle, he was to assume that they're police officers, like we don't have white people in our neighborhood? We got some shiesty white people in our neighborhood, just like we got shiesty black people in our neighborhood. There's drive-bys often in our community. Their whole approach, how they came around that corner and at my son … like I told a detective, if it had been me, and I had my weapon, I would've fired back at them as well.
AM: Who was your son?
AH: Bub is a protector. For him to put people in danger, it's just not him. All of my children are like me, but people getting bullied — Bub didn't go for that.
It really bothers me how they tried to portray my son. Once they found out who it was and they went to go pull his record, they didn't get to line it up. The detective said — I don't even think we had been sitting down [at the hospital] ten minutes — "Well, I see he didn't have a record."
Once they found out who it was and they went to go pull his record, they didn't get to line it up. The detective said, "Well, I see he didn't have a record."
It ticked me off. I wouldn't care if my son's rap sheet went around Columbus 30 times or more. I'm talking about that day. That moment. What was my son doing that your officers had an encounter with him in the first place? What was he doing? Did you get a call about a disturbance? Was he arguing with someone? Why did you encounter my son to begin with? And even if I give them the "standing on the corner, brandishing a weapon," where was he breaking the law? Ohio is an open-carry state.
They encountered my son because he was black, period. That Summer Safety Initiative baloney program that they keep changing the name of is just a reason for them to jump out on those kids on a more regular basis — cause they already do it. That cost my son his life.
AM: Describe the scene at the hospital, where he was taken after the shooting and pronounced dead.
AH: It was about 6:50 [p.m.] when I got there. I went to the desk at the emergency room, and at first they said they didn't have him. I went back outside and had seen an ambulance pull up. I ran to the ambulance, and the guy said that they didn't have him and that I had to go back inside. A lady came out — a social worker, I'm not sure. She said, "All we can tell you is that he's in critical condition and he's under arrest." I said, "How many times was my son shot?" She told me three times.
We're all there. One of Bub's old teachers, a pastor, he came, and we had prayer on the sidewalk. Then the one security guy that was decent to us, he came and got me and Henry [Bub's dad]. They took us into this little room, and the doctor came in, that lady came back in, and the detective came in. I was like, "He didn't make it, did he?" I started screaming at them, "What took y'all so long to come and tell me?" I remember hearing the doctor say he couldn't understand why Bub was losing so much blood. The detective stopped him from talking.
I ran out the door, out the emergency-room exit. When I was coming around the corner, my whole family was going in through the front door. Skylah and Jayden [Bub's siblings] lost it. They tore that waiting area to pieces. I collapsed. I laid on the ground and I screamed and I cried. Then my kids came back outside. I started hearing all of the sirens.
When I looked up, it was police lined in front of us. One officer, she had this smirk on her face, and her and Jayden locked eyes. Jayden went off. She was the only one out of all of them that put her hand on any of her weapons. Everybody was just crying and screaming, and then you look up and it's all of these police officers. Why are y'all even here?
AM: Did the police contact you after that night?
AM: You've said that Mayor Andrew Ginther was at a community event just after Bub's death, and that he wasn't very forthcoming.
AH: The mayor, CPD Chief Kimberly Jacobs, and some of the high-profile pastors from the African-American community were [at the community event]. They prayed for the police officers. They asked people to go to the closest police officer to them and do a circle around him and pray. They talked about Philando Castile and Alton Sterling — those were the only names that they brought up. I started shaking. It's in their own backyard and they say nothing. My feelings were truly hurt.
AM: How soon after did you start to organize? In what ways?
AH: Monday, Bub was shot and killed. All of Tuesday, my sisters, they had taken my phone. Wednesday, I got my phone back, and Sean [Walton, the family's attorney, who had been contacted by Hood's family and pastor] had left me a message. He was here that afternoon.
The first press conference that we did was within two weeks. Without the People's Justice Project, I don't know what I would have done. PJP stepped in when they did, that was something that I didn't have to worry about. They already had boots on the ground, doing this thing already in the city. When they did the first rally, they didn't even know that I was gonna be there.
AM: Your family made specific demands to the police department and the Columbus city prosecutor. What are they?
AH: We asked for an independent investigation during the police investigation. We did not get that. We asked for a special prosecutor, to have somebody from the outside. We did not get that. It doesn't cost them anything, and if they're gonna come up with the same thing that you come up with, what's the problem? That, to me, would be restoring community trust.
AM: So the police investigated themselves, then handed the case off to the prosecutor's office, with whom they work all the time. They did, however, employ a machine from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation to digitally re-create the scene. In your opinion, why is that effort not good enough?
AH: It's supposed to pick up [the trajectory of] bullets, at least that's what I've been told. I question the accuracy, not of the equipment itself but of the information that went into the system. Again, where did you get it from? And it was used five and a half months later, going on six. People [in the neighborhood] have had stuff repaired. You're not gonna get the fullness of what went on that day, because you didn't talk to any witnesses and the information came from [CPD]. I don't trust them at all.
AM: City Prosecutor Ron O'Brien always presents these cases to a grand jury. But in his twenty years, no officer has been indicted for an on-duty fatal shooting. Henry's case is now being prepared for a grand-jury trial. What outcome do you expect?
AH: I put no trust in man, but I really have no trust in that man and this whole okey-doke system here in Columbus. We haven't had an indictment, I don't think ever, but definitely not in the last 26 or 27 years. People are human. We all make mistakes. There's no way that you can tell me that these officers have been right 100 percent of the time, they've been justified 100 percent of the time. O'Brien said there's only been a couple of cases where they even came remotely close. But what did you do in those cases? You still didn't indict. You did not let a jury hear the evidence.
I really would not be surprised by a non-indictment], but I know the prayers that I've prayed. I have the strength to go on, I do know that. I am not gonna stop here, so if I don't get the outcome that should happen, I am willing and ready to go to the next level. I can't sit by and continue to let [injustice] happen, because then my son would've died in vain. I can't do that. It's just not in me. I've been a fighter all my life.
AM: What's the next level?
AH: The next level would be filing a civil-rights violation on the federal level. There have been a couple of officers that were found guilty on that level, and they went to prison. There's still hope.
I want them to lose their jobs, and I want them to go to jail. That's my end-all. Nothing else would give me the satisfaction that I'm looking for. I don't want them to die. That's too easy. You robbed my son of his life, and I know I can't get you put in jail for life, but dag gonnit, anytime that you are away from your family, like I'm away from my child, and you have to be in a place that you know you're there because of my child, I want it. That's what I want.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Alli Maloney is a writer.