Will 'Stand Your Ground' apply in shooting death of Walker Co. man with Alzheimer's?
By Matt Barbour, Weekend Anchor/Reporter - bio | email
WALKER COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -
The investigation continues into the shooting death of a Walker County man with Alzheimer's, who was mistaken for a prowler. The district attorney's office now has the task of determining if the shooter should be charged.
Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson says this a very tough case to investigate because he knew the victim, 72-year-old Ronald Westbrook. Wilson is very outspoken about the actions of the shooter, saying in his opinion, he never should have gone outside and waited for deputies to arrive. But when it comes to charges, Wilson says as of right now it does not look like 34-year-old Joe Hendrix broke any laws.
"He's a good man. I've known him. We attend church together. We go to the same church. Just a fine man. A fine family," said Sheriff Wilson in a Wednesday news conference.
Sheriff Wilson says 72-year-old Ronald Westbrook was most likely lost and confused when he started ringing the doorbell and jiggling the doorknob at a home on Cottage Crest Court in Chickamauga around 4 o'clock Wednesday morning. Wesbrook's wife had no clue he left their home about three miles away.
"They just did not know that he had walked away until about the time it happened. And it was just too late at that point. About the time she discovered he was gone, the shooting had already happened."
While 34-year-old Joe Hendrix ran outside to check the property with gun in hand, his fiancee was on the phone with 911. Hendrix told investigators he gave Westbrook verbal commands with no response and when Westbrook came toward him, he fire his gun four times.
"I believe he should have stayed inside the home," said Wilson.
But Sheriff Wilson says that is just his opinion.
"Did he violate any laws by exiting the home? No. None that we know of."
Wilson says it is now up to the district attorney to see if Georgia's 'Stand Your Ground' law will play a role in the case.
"I'm certain the district attorney will certainly take that code section, that law into consideration while he's reviewing the case," said Wilson.
The 2006 law states a person "has no duty to retreat" and has the right to "stand his or her ground," which includes using deadly force. The code pertains to defense of a habitation or property.
"There's no doubt in our mind that Mr. Hendrix and his fiance felt threatened."
But Wilson stresses it is an open investigation.
"We feel like at this point that we should proceed cautiously and with an open mind and let the evidence and the law take its place," said Wilson.
Wilson also says on the 911 recording it is clear the dispatcher was not aware Hendrix left the house. Channel 3 has put in a request for the recording.
On a side note, after Wednesday's report, a lot of people contacted Channel 3 concerned for Mr. Westbrook's dog that was taken from the scene and placed in the Walker County Animal Shelter. His family was originally told they could not get the dog back until Saturday because of the holiday. But after a few phone calls, the dog is now by Mrs. Westbrook's side.
Tuesday, September 2 2014 12:51 PM EDT2014-09-02 16:51:41 GMT
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