Crime & Courts

Richmond Co. | Columbia Co. | Aiken Co. |

Elmore family still struggles with death

  • Follow Crime & courts

Walk a few steps into Cherry Tree Crossing and it's clear the memory of last year's fatal shooting of 23-year-old Justin Elmore by Richmond County sheriff's deputies is still fresh.

Back | Next
Justin Elmore  Special
Special
Justin Elmore

As the anniversary of his Dec. 14 death approaches -- an incident that caused a near riot at the public housing complex and had authorities and public officials on edge for days -- his nickname "Jed" has sprung up in black graffiti along the walls of buildings and the nearby C&J Market on 15th Street. Just the mention of his name prompts a response by those who said they heard the deputies' gunshots or attended one of the many candlelight vigils held to mark his death.

But more than anyone else, it's those who knew Mr. Elmore, the deputies who fired on him and those touched by him after his death who are still feeling the effects of that day.

HANGING ABOVE the doorway to Dora Ward's home is a plaque bearing the phrase "Faith will see us through." It's faith that Mr. Elmore's mother has used to dull the pain of her youngest son's death. She takes regular trips to Lake Olmstead to read Bible passages. Sometimes she brings it to Mr. Elmore's grave in Walker Memorial Park Cemetery, where she sits and talks to her son. Often, she finds herself apologizing for the past.

"I tell him I'm sorry," Ms. Ward said, fighting back tears. "When I had him my mom told me, 'That's your baby and God gave him to you, so you need to take care of him.' It seems like I didn't do a good job."

Mr. Elmore was much more than the sum of his mistakes, she said. In the days and weeks after the shooting, those mistakes were widely reported in the media. Mr. Elmore had a history of confrontations with sheriff's deputies that began when he was 17.

The list consisted mostly of minor drug possession and traffic violations. None were violent offenses, but he was on probation for three felony drug cases at the time of his death.

After the shooting, Ms. Ward was frustrated by the way he was portrayed by police and others. While some saw him trying to hit one of the deputies with his car, she said she was actually relieved when she watched the tape.

"When I saw the tape -- and even though the (district attorney) was saying he was trying to hit him -- I was thinking thank God because I knew he was trying to go around."

SHA'keela McNair and Justin Elmore were barely teenagers when they met. Ms. McNair said she was walking in Cherry Tree Crossing and Mr. Elmore kept trying to get her attention. He was two years older and slightly overweight, she said.

"I was like 'I don't like fat boys,' " she said. "I just finally gave him a chance, and when I did, I mean, we just stayed together and kept on talking."

Ms. McNair was pregnant with Mr. Elmore's twin boys when the shooting occurred. In May, she gave birth to Justin Elmore III and Jedrick McNair. They were 31/2 months early and Justin did not survive. This week, to mark Mr. Elmore's death, Ms. McNair said she will pour the baby's ashes on his father's grave.

The other child, Jedrick, closely resembles his dad -- which has been the hardest but also the most comforting thing for Ms. McNair.

"Deep down in my heart he is still here with me," she said. "If I look at my baby, I'm looking at him."

IN MAY, a grand jury found no probable cause to charge Deputy Michael Hodge and Deputy Jose Ortiz with a criminal act for firing on Mr. Elmore -- essentially confirming Sheriff Ronnie Strength's position that their lives were threatened and they were justified in defending themselves. They have since returned to work for the department, but because of concerns for their safety they are no longer assigned to a beat that includes the Cherry Tree Crossing area. Deputy Ortiz is a property-crimes investigator, and Deputy Hodge works on the road patrol. Deputy Ortiz declined to comment, and attempts to reach Deputy Hodge were unsuccessful.

When reached by phone on Saturday for a comment, Sheriff Strength said he didn't understand why the newspaper was doing a story on the incident.

"If I thought it was positive for the community or anything but 100 percent negative for the community, I'd make a statement," he said. "But other than that, I have no comment."

In their accounts in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's investigative summary, Deputies Hodge and Ortiz describe how fear over Mr. Elmore's intentions prompted the shooting.

Deputy Ortiz said he was in front of Mr. Elmore's black Suburban when he saw it move in reverse and strike Deputy Hodge's car. When it came toward him, he "thought the suspect vehicle was going to run over him," the summary says, and he fired.

Deputy Hodge told interviewers that an informant had told him four men were riding through Cherry Tree in a "newer model SUV Suburban, black in color, with tinted windows." A short time later, Deputy Hodge spotted Mr. Elmore's SUV, which turned out to be the wrong vehicle, and stopped him. When Mr. Elmore's vehicle began to hop the curb and head toward Deputy Ortiz, he fired. Deputy Hodge told the interviewers that he "fired his weapon because he felt Deputy Ortiz was in danger and that he was going to get run over," the report said.

FOUR PEOPLE in Georgia are alive today because of Mr. Elmore's death. His right kidney is now helping a 64-year-old Veterans Affairs worker enjoy a second chance at life. His death ended a 27-year-old woman's wait for a kidney. His liver has led to a 62-year-old man's discharge from the hospital. And his heart beats in a 38-year-old man whom Ms. Ward only knows as "Richard."

In a card emblazoned with a bright red heart, Richard thanked Mr. Elmore's family for their gift.

At first, Ms. Ward said she was reluctant to read it. In fact, she was still struggling with the fact that others were alive and her child was dead. But in the end, she said, it was done because "Justin would have done it."

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

On Dec. 14, 2008, 23-year-old Justin Lenard Elmore was shot by Richmond County sheriff's deputies. Interviews and sheriff's department video show Mr. Elmore trying to escape from police after they boxed him in with their cars on Carver Drive in the Cherry Tree Crossing neighborhood.

The deputies were responding to an informant's tip that someone in a similar vehicle had weapons and drugs. Mr. Elmore accelerated toward Deputy Jose Rivera Ortiz, who fired several times at the vehicle. A second deputy, Michael Hodge, also fired.

Mr. Elmore turned out to not be the man deputies had suspected. As news of the shooting spread, rocks and bottles were thrown at deputies and fires were set in trash bins and gunfire could be heard. Extra deputies were called to the neighborhood for security.

VIDEO

December 2008: Police video of the shooting

December 2008: Candlelight vigil at Cherry Tree Crossing

May 2009: Residents react to grand jury decision

PHOTOS

See 30 photos chronicling the shooting

Comments (123) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
johnston.cliff
2
Points
johnston.cliff 12/13/09 - 05:17 am
0
0
Reach Adam Folk?

Reach Adam Folk? Please....."IN MAY, a grand jury found no probable cause to charge Deputy Michael Hodge and Deputy Jose Ortiz with a criminal act for firing on Mr. Elmore" It appears Adam Folk can't be reached.

justus4
101
Points
justus4 12/13/09 - 05:34 am
0
0
The guy's organs were donated
Unpublished

The guy's organs were donated to help others, but his life was taken because of U know what. Who decided to whom the organs were given and what order of priority was used, because if those decisions were made by U know who, the family is justified in any legal action against those responsible. And repeating what those deputies said is utter hearsay, 'cause the credibility of that bunch, especially among the permanent underclass and working poor, is extremely low. Moreover, how can a government agency ALWAYS get it right? How can EACH & EVERY shooting of a individual citizen result in a 100% "officer acted in accordance with established rules of engagement" investigation result? They are NEVER held responsible except when the victim is U know what....how can one government agency operate so perfectly, but Americans collectively don't trust their government? Well, again it's extremely simple when U consider U know what. Yep, this death may have helped some others live a bit longer, but it sure wasn't the guy who originally owned the organs.

cajunnana2000
2
Points
cajunnana2000 12/13/09 - 06:22 am
0
0
I did not know this young man

I did not know this young man who seemed to have had some run-ins with the law. I do have a question with reference to the situation. No, I will make it a comment. Only because I keep reading about situations like this in Georgia. Is it necessary for a policeman or Law Enforcement to stand in front or back of a car when attempting to make an arrest. The driver will probably NOT exit the front or the back. He will probably use the door. It seems as tho putting an officer in front or back is a setup to justify shooting. They could have used those bullets to shoot out the tires.

pizzato
3
Points
pizzato 12/13/09 - 08:01 am
0
0
The picture just goes to show

The picture just goes to show no matter how many they put down there are two more waiting to take hs place.

nofrills
0
Points
nofrills 12/13/09 - 08:18 am
0
0
Im just thankful the officers

Im just thankful the officers were cleared and their lives were not ruined because they did their job! Now we still have to pay for his kids he left behind but heck I think we were paying for them before.

johnston.cliff
2
Points
johnston.cliff 12/13/09 - 08:39 am
0
0
Really, justus? He was an

Really, justus? He was an organ donor? Well, how about that? After the way he lived his life, he finally made a positive decision. Some good DID come from this wasted life. I guess you can never tell. It's too bad he had to die to do a recognizable good. My primary complaint about the subsidy lifestyle is the type of society it creates. There HAS to be another way to buy Dem votes.

savoy_savoy
1
Points
savoy_savoy 12/13/09 - 08:46 am
0
0
nofrills: how do you know who

nofrills: how do you know who you are paying for? Well, somebody's gotta do it....so please, be on time for work.

JohnQPublic
5
Points
JohnQPublic 12/13/09 - 08:52 am
0
0
I'm glad his family donated

I'm glad his family donated his organs. However, he was not a hero or a good role model as a father. I hope his children learn how NOT to live when they hear their father's story. The reality is, because he believed he did not have to follow the laws, Elmore brought this upon himself. The police reacted but Elmore was hardly the "model" citizen purposely sought out by the police. The officers did NOT decide that morning to go kill Elmore that day. Elmore decided that the first time he broke the law. I fail to understand how his thug, thief and druggie lifestlye continues to be glorified by some of those who knew him and by comments on this page.

younameit
188
Points
younameit 12/13/09 - 08:52 am
0
0
I'm confused. The headline

I'm confused. The headline refers to the "Elmore family" but I can't find any semblence of a family in the story. And there's another glaring omission of fact from this pathetic attempt to torture compassionate readers with a matter that their justice system has comprehensively treated: They now get the dubious honor of paying social security benefits for the child's first 18+ years because why? Because his biological father is no longer around to sell drugs to our children.

overburdened_taxpayer
117
Points
overburdened_taxpayer 12/13/09 - 09:03 am
0
0
The family is just looking

The family is just looking for sympathy and a way to pay for their Christmas presents this year since his grug selling money has dried up and they don't have a chance in a lawsuit.

overburdened_taxpayer
117
Points
overburdened_taxpayer 12/13/09 - 09:04 am
0
0
(sorry) drug selling money

(sorry) drug selling money

overburdened_taxpayer
117
Points
overburdened_taxpayer 12/13/09 - 09:06 am
0
0
Justus4 - look at that. the

Justus4 - look at that. the AWM did a sob story for a you-know-who drug dealer.

WAG
287
Points
WAG 12/13/09 - 09:34 am
0
0
What is the point of this

What is the point of this story. The AC must not have much to writh about. So he donated his organs. We are donating to his brats everyday by paying for them...Who paid the hospital bills fot this brat.....MMM we did!!!Come on AC find some news to write about ..this is garbage! If he had been doing what he was supposed to be doing he would not have been killed..This was not an accident....He was a drug dealing thug! And he got killed in his chosen line of work....Drug dealing...

WAG
287
Points
WAG 12/13/09 - 09:37 am
0
0
And by the way the hospital

And by the way the hospital bill was astronomical for those brats....Who paid for it...We did..so the family should be thanking us!

worriedboutdafuture
5
Points
worriedboutdafuture 12/13/09 - 09:43 am
0
0
This story should have never

This story should have never been printed! Why are we rehashing this thing! My sympathies for his family but there are countless innocents who have died either directly or indirectly at the hands and actions of this "FOOL!" Do we print stories about them? This guy chose his own method demise! (SUICIDE BY COP WHEN HE REFUSED TO STOP!) It ain't got nothing to do with "Color!" So get off of it! Maybe He wasn't Much in Life but his organs are doing a world of good for others! I would hope that his baby mama and family will tell his kids the ABSOLUTE TRUTH about who and what he was!. These Lyrics say it best! PAPA WAS A ROLLING STONE!, WHEREVER HE LAID HIS HAT WAS HIS HOME, AND WHEN HE DIED! ALL HE LEFT US WAS ALONE! R.I.P. To This young misguided man and to the many innocents dead who will never hear their story told or printed!

wise
1
Points
wise 12/13/09 - 09:45 am
0
0
All of your comments are

All of your comments are uncalled for and racist. But hey its Augusta! You can get shot for no reason on tape and the good ole boy protection team will still side with the officers although the truth is right there on the tape. I know we all seen the same one that clearly shows him trying to drive around the officer. Racism must make you physically and mentally blind from the truth. May God bless you all.

apex24
0
Points
apex24 12/13/09 - 09:47 am
0
0
Wag, good post but you're

Wag, good post but you're white get ready for the call of racism.

JacquesUlar
0
Points
JacquesUlar 12/13/09 - 09:50 am
0
0
Memorialized by street

Memorialized by street vandals on the wall of a liquor/check-cashing/lottery store, how

fitting! Good decision on the "No comment", Sherrif. Thank you for all that you and your

officers do to protect us from those like Sweet Jed.

JacquesUlar
0
Points
JacquesUlar 12/13/09 - 09:53 am
0
0
wise, so he was "just

wise, so he was "just running" from the po-po, and that's okay in your world?

worriedboutdafuture
5
Points
worriedboutdafuture 12/13/09 - 09:54 am
0
0
what tape were you looking at

what tape were you looking at wise? the officer was clearly seen trying to get out of the way! IF HE WAS WHITE HE WOULD GOT THE SAME TREATMENT! You think that officer was just gonna stand there and say "here I am just roll me over!" Wise you need ta get Wise! (LOL) A real joker you are!

whyaskwhy
0
Points
whyaskwhy 12/13/09 - 09:58 am
0
0
Stop ! Stop ! Stop! No more

Stop ! Stop ! Stop! No more about this bad boy. It was not a good story last year and it is not a good story now. This is not news we can use. Please fast forward. With daddy's name all over the area and two more babies to be trained by the same hands, what can we expect? At least the organs are in a better place.

roh
2
Points
roh 12/13/09 - 10:06 am
0
0
It's very sad that just about

It's very sad that just about every thing that I read on these message board ALWAYS boil down to race. This happy just about one year ago and I only saw it on the News. Today I watched the video and will praise for all the officers involved, because they know and God knows that young man's life was taken unnecessarly. To his family I'd like to say no matter what he'd done in the past there was NOOOOOO reason for the Officer's to shoot him. i.e. From the video it shows he was shot through the passenger window, NOT the front windshield. To my knowledge automobles ONLY travel forward and backward, not LEFT AND RIGHT! God help us all.

JacquesUlar
0
Points
JacquesUlar 12/13/09 - 10:10 am
0
0
I'd still like to know what

I'd still like to know what comments on there are considered "racist" by some of y'all? Am I missing something here?

joekm46
0
Points
joekm46 12/13/09 - 10:17 am
0
0
He was wrong, and now he is

He was wrong, and now he is gone! End of story, you live a criminals life and sooner or later you pay the price. Even if it means paying with your life!!!

wise
1
Points
wise 12/13/09 - 10:38 am
0
0
Please watch the tape again

Please watch the tape again you will see him turning away from the officer as in to go around him not hit him. I do not care if he was pink or purple the police can not just shoot people. He was wrong for trying to run but that is not probable cause to shoot to kill. Jacques we do a lot of running for the po po's out here in Columbia County. LOL

hisfaith2003
5
Points
hisfaith2003 12/13/09 - 10:42 am
0
0
ShaKela McNair has a lot of

ShaKela McNair has a lot of nerve in front of a news paper. Her brother shot and killed Stedmund Fryer on the dance at the supper C night Club dance floor July 9, 2007. where it was a rummor she brought in the gun for her brother.Now she knows what his family is dealing with on a daily bases. shakela also done her dirt with the richmond county sheriff department.you have no rights infront of a news paper,Stop hurting him and his family. Augusta Chronicle needs to be more careful of who they put infront of the paper. Because Shakela McNair has no right her or her family. KILLERS

johnrawllins
0
Points
johnrawllins 12/13/09 - 10:51 am
0
0
One knows sthe old saying,

One knows sthe old saying, "don't do the crime----" , no pity. Shakella another of the entitlement crowd--tapayer money supporting this "breeder and her lil ones!

butler123
1
Points
butler123 12/13/09 - 10:53 am
0
0
Wow, is the AC going to print

Wow, is the AC going to print stories about all the other people who died last Dec. due to illness, car crashes and murder. There are a lot of family members who are going to be without their loved ones this Christmas, through no fault of their own.

wise
1
Points
wise 12/13/09 - 10:53 am
0
0
The story is about more than

The story is about more than a drug dealer. Its about a mother that lost a son and grandson and a young mother who lost a life partner and a son. They are not asking for donations the mother even admits her faults but you still want to continue to degrade the family. I think that the story is being published because of the recent case where the white boy drug dealer was shot. Witnesses stated they heard shots before the engine started in that case. Just open the jail report it is full of evidence of excessive force being used. Its all over the faces of those mostly for drug charges.(black eyes and swollen faces) What happens when they are playing the wild wild west in the streets (they are shooting multiple times) and a gets child hit. In my mind they are murders but who am I to judge I will leave that for God.

johnrawllins
0
Points
johnrawllins 12/13/09 - 11:01 am
0
0
wise, do you really believe

wise, do you really believe this "young mother" lost a LIFE partner??? What you want to bet the little girl doesn't have the same dad as the one she is holding? You do too much crack last night?

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs