Man shot by police dies

Several gathered at a candlelight vigil Tuesday night at Cherry Tree Crossing public housing complex to mark the death of a man shot Sunday by police during a drug arrest.

While they were singing hymns, however, others began hurling rocks and bottles at sheriff's deputies, who quickly arrested at least three people.

A large police presence of about 90 officers, including 16 Georgia State Patrol troopers, moved in when the crowd grew threatening.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength said his officers were prepared for trouble but also wanted to protect the law-abiding people who lived in the housing project.

"Eighty-five percent of the people who live here are good folk," the sheriff said. "We're here to protect them. They want us here."

One officer was taken to the hospital Tuesday night, but the sheriff said it was a separate health issue and not an injury.

The night's confrontations began after news spread of the death of Justin Leonard Elmore. He was taken off life support by his family about 7 p.m., according to a cousin who was at Medical College of Georgia Hospital when he died. 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.

Police said they shot Mr. Elmore, 23, on Sunday afternoon when he tried to drive his SUV over deputies attempting to stop him on suspected drug charges.

The deputies said they tried to block Mr. Elmore's vehicle with their cars, but he smashed his SUV back and forth into their vehicles to get away. He was shot when it appeared he would run over one of them, they said.

The Sunday incident at Carver Drive and 15th Street almost immediately brought up to 200 people into the street, and many began throwing rocks and bottles at police and later set trash in bins afire.

Many have complained that Mr. Elmore's shooting was unnecessary.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday that it has police car videos of the incident but won't make them public until it concludes its investigation into the shooting.

GBI Special Agent Gary Nicholson said the videos are considered evidence in the investigation of the deputies to determine whether 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."

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

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

Things remained tense in the housing project, which, with 389 apartments and more than 1,000 residents, is Augusta's largest.

On Monday night, a deputy's patrol car was hit with a bullet. 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.

Staff Writer Greg Gelpi contributed to this report.

Reach Mike Wynn and Adam Folk at (706) 724-0851.