Saturday, December 20, 2008

Police Car Video 'Accurately Shows What Happened'

The man shot by police Sunday at a local public housing complex died tonight.

Justin Leonard Elmore was taken off life support by his family, according to a cousin who was at Medical College of Georgia Hospital when he passed away. Brenda Givens said the family made the decision after doctors determined he was brain dead.

“Everybody is having a hard time with it,” she said between sobs during a phone call from the hospital.

Ms. Givens said the family continues to believe the shooting was uncalled for.

“It ain’t right,” she said. “This was some wrong stuff that happened.”

News of Mr. Elmore’s death spread quickly and a candlelight vigil was organized at the site of Sunday’s altercation near the Cherry Tree Crossing housing complex.

Police said Mr. Elmore was shot Sunday afternoon when he tried to drive his SUV over deputies attempting to stop him on suspected drug charges. The incident at Carver Drive and 15th Street brought up to 200 people into the street, and many began throwing rocks and bottles at police and setting trash in dumpsters afire.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday it has a police car video of the incident but won’t make it public until it concludes its investigation into the shooting.

GBI Special Agent Gary Nicholson said the video is considered evidence in the investigation of the deputies to determine if they were justified in shooting Mr. Elmore.

“We have looked at them in detail,” Agent Nicholson said. “We cannot release them but they have been entered as evidence in this case and as such they are not available for public record at this point in the investigation.”

On Monday, Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said the video appears to show that his officers, Jose Rivera Ortiz and Michael Hodge, acted appropriately in shooting a man who tried to ram Deputy Ortiz with his SUV. Agent Nicholson said he has watched video from both deputies’ patrol cars and that they “accurately show what happened.”

This comes as deputies dealt with another night of violence in Augusta’s Cherry Tree Crossing housing project. On Monday night, a deputy’s patrol car was hit with a bullet. The incident appeared isolated, however, and police said the area has been generally quiet since Sunday when an angry crowd of as many as 200 lobbed rocks and bottles at police following the shooting of a 23-year-old fleeing drug suspect.

According to sheriff’s reports, Cpl. Charles Benson was patrolling in the 1600 block of McCauley Street at 11:30 p.m. when he heard five or six gunshots. The deputy then heard a thump in the rear of his vehicle where a bullet struck the license plate, the report said.

The Sheriff’s Office along with Georgia State Patrol troopers, increased their presence in the area

The two deputies have been placed on administrative duty pending a GBI review of the case.

Anyone with who witnessed the incident is asked to call the GBI at (706) 595-2575.