SUV in shooting wasn't stolen

The SUV driven by a man fatally wounded by police Sunday was not stolen, the GBI said Friday, addressing controversy surrounding ownership of the vehicle.

 

However, Special Agent Gary Nicholson of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation wouldn't release information about who does own the Chevrolet Tahoe driven by Justin Elmore.

Mr. Elmore, 23, was shot by sheriff's deputies who said he was trying to run them over after they had stopped him near Augusta's Cherry Tree Crossing housing project.

Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said Thursday that some confusion about the SUV's ownership likely stems from calls to police about a similar vehicle reported stolen Sunday night.

"Never was I ever told that the SUV was stolen," he said. "He was in his SUV. It was about the drugs and the gun."

Augusta Commissioner Corey Johnson also said Sunday night that he was told deputies got a tip that a stolen black SUV in the area carried drugs and guns.

Deputies Jose Ortiz and Michael Hodge were responding to such a tip, according to authorities. The deputies say that when they boxed in Mr. Elmore's SUV, he put his car in reverse, rammed into Deputy Hodge's patrol car and then tried to hit Deputy Ortiz, who approached on foot from the front.

Sheriff Strength said he believes Deputy Ortiz fired two shots at the front windshield, then shot through the front passenger side window as the SUV passed him. He said Deputy Hodge also fired his gun, but he was not sure where those shots went.

The two deputies both had .40-caliber semiautomatic Glocks with 13-bullet clips, Sheriff Strength said. He said he didn't know how many shots were fired.

Mr. Elmore died Tuesday night after being taken off life support at Medical College of Georgia Hospital.

Both deputies have been placed on administrative duties pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation, Agent Nicholson said.

A third deputy trailed behind the two officers but did not fire shots, Sheriff Strength said. The dash camera from that deputy's car malfunctioned and will be sent to the FBI Crime Lab in Washington to try to recover any images. The recording won't show details of the shooting because the camera was facing toward an apartment at Cherry Tree Crossing, Agent Nicholson said.

"In order to be thorough, we wanted to still check the tape," he said.

The two other police cars recorded the incident, but authorities have not made the recordings public.

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.