2 officers won't be charged

Police video shows the shooting of Justin Elmore in December 2008.
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The neighborhoods in and around Augusta's Cherry Tree Crossing housing project remained quiet Tuesday night after a grand jury's decision not to indict two Richmond County sheriff's deputies who fatally shot a man there in December.

Several days of civil unrest followed the Dec. 14 shooting of Justin Elmore, 23, killed by police when they said he tried to run one of them down with his SUV.

A heavy police presence involving several agencies surrounded the neighborhoods off 15th Street late Tuesday, and both authorities and Cherry Tree residents said they expected things to remain calm.

District Attorney Ashley Wright said the grand jury's decision essentially ends the possibility of prosecution of Deputies Jose Rivera Ortiz and Michael Hodge. She said the "no bill" means that at least 12 members found no probable cause the deputies committed a criminal act.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength said he was pleased with the decision and urged others to view the police dashboard-camera videotapes of the shooting before passing judgment on the grand jury's decision. He said the film shows his deputies' lives were in danger.

"That was the threat," he said. "We hope people do sit back -- study the tapes."

The sheriff also met Tuesday with community leaders including state Rep. Henry Howard, longtime Paine College educator Mallory Millender and Barbara Gordon, publisher and editor of the Metro Courier newspaper.

The shooting of Mr. Elmore provoked several days of unrest in mid-December as hundreds protested in and around the complex off 15th Street. The Rev. Al Sharpton preached at his funeral, urging calm, but afterward many took to the streets, including members of the New Black Panther Party, who brandished guns as police looked on.

The Elmore case was turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Ms. Wright presented the results of its investigation to the grand jury Tuesday.

The panel, which met behind closed doors, began hearing evidence at 9 a.m., and witnesses testified until at least 3 p.m. It finished work about 4 p.m. on the shooting case, the only one before grand jurors all day.

According to the district attorney, the grand jury had a murder indictment for consideration. Its duty was to decide whether there was an unlawful, intentional killing, Ms. Wright said.

The grand jury could have indicted the deputies on another charge, such as manslaughter or reckless conduct, and chose not to. Ms. Wright said the grand jury can charge any crime supported by the facts.

Both officers attended the grand jury hearing, a practice allowed for any law enforcement officer or public official who could face criminal indictment. The law allows the officer or official to make a statement, too.

Witnesses included GBI agents, a narcotics officer and at least one expert on law enforcement training in the use of deadly force.

Ms. Wright said she could not discuss the evidence presented because grand jury proceedings are secret.

While the officers and their attorneys could attend the portion during which witnesses testified, no one other than the jurors may be present during the deliberations of the grand jury, Ms. Wright said.

Although details described to grand jurors remain secret, police accounts in December said the deputies were responding to a tip about a man with drugs and weapons in an SUV. They used their patrol cars to box in Mr. Elmore's vehicle in the Cherry Tree Crossing housing complex.

As Deputy Ortiz approached from the front on foot, Mr. Elmore put his SUV in reverse, rammed Deputy Hodge's car and drove toward Deputy Ortiz.

Mr. Elmore was shot. He was taken to Medical College of Georgia Hospital, where he died several days later when his family asked that he be taken off life support.

Reach Sandy Hodson and Adam Folk at (706) 724-0851.

MORE VIDEO

Watch the full police videos at the following addresses:


Car 1


Car 2

TUESDAY AT CHERRY TREE

Though the angry crowds that gathered after Justin Elmore's shooting in December did not regroup after Tuesday's grand jury news, some residents at Cherry Tree Crossing did express disagreement with the decision.

"There should have been murder charges," said Sha'keela McNair, who soon will give birth to Mr. Elmore's twin boys.

Click here to watch a video of residents' responses on Tuesday.

THE BACKSTORY

THE INCIDENT: On Dec. 14, Deputies Jose Rivera Ortiz and Michael Hodge were responding to a tip about a man with drugs and weapons in an SUV when they boxed in Justin Leonard Elmore, 23, using their patrol cars. Police said Mr. Elmore rammed Deputy Hodge's car and drove toward Deputy Ortiz. Mr. Elmore was shot and later died.

THE AFTERMATH

- Angry over the shooting, some people hurled rocks and bottles at Richmond County sheriff's deputies as a crowd of about 200 gathered Dec. 14 at the development off 15th Street.

- On Dec. 16, Mr. Elmore was taken off life support at Medical College of Georgia Hospital.

- On Dec. 23, about 200 people marched through Cherry Tree in a demonstration against police brutality, led by gun-toting members of the New Black Panthers Party's Augusta chapter.

-- Edited from staff reports

PREVIOUS STORIES

Elmore had history of arrests

Investigations of shootings involving officers continue - Mar. 14

GBI, District attorney talk Elmore shooting - Feb. 4

200 march after Elmore's funeral - Dec. 23

SUV in shooting wasn't stolen - Dec. 20

Damaged car camera elicits help from FBI - Dec. 18

Man shot by police dies [VIDEO] - Dec. 17

Sheriff defends deputies [VIDEO] - Dec. 16

Shooting recalls 1998 case - Dec. 16

Residents' anger boils at police - Dec. 16

Angry crowd confronts police at housing project shooting scene - Dec. 14

Comments (230) Add comment
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Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 05/06/09 - 01:55 am
0
0
Deputies Jose Rivera Ortiz

Deputies Jose Rivera Ortiz and Michael Hodge acted in accordance with their training and reacted appropriately to a violent criminal who was endangering their lives. Had they failed to stop him as their job requires we may be mourning the lives of officers or innocent citizens. These officers will have to live with their actions but they should know that the majority of the community supports and appreciates them for all they do on a daily basis, including this day. It is also good to see the residents of Cherry Tree not "taking to the streets" over a violent repeat criminal. It is amazing that some seem to support this individual and his actions simply because he is black but berate the officers who were black and hispanic simply becuase they are officers. It is very clear to anyone watching that not only did Elmore try to escape but he hit a patrol car when backing up and when he put it in drive he was moving towards a deputy ordering him to stop and pointing a loaded handgun at him - this should be a clear cut lesson for all lawbreakers who drive towards a police officer in the line of duty. These officers shot to stop, did their jobs well and deserve our support & praise

Nero
0
Points
Nero 05/06/09 - 03:31 am
0
0
Asitis - Well said as usual.

Asitis - Well said as usual. Those (and all the other) deputies certainly have my support.

constituent
164
Points
constituent 05/06/09 - 03:44 am
0
0
Their is a contagious disease

Their is a contagious disease that have spreaded all across the nation with law enforcement officers using deadly force and killing colored males every day in the United States of America.
White males commit horrendous crimes every day but the law enforcement officers draw down their guns instead of using deadly force.
Congress need to enact a legislation to change the law enforcement training and procedure because colored males are falling victim.

justus4
101
Points
justus4 05/06/09 - 04:12 am
0
0
Nothing new here...another
Unpublished

Nothing new here...another sad example of, fooling the people all the time, with this so-called democratic process, while trying to lecture countries like Cuba, Iran, and China on human rights. Ha! Given the opportunity to uphold the country's foundation with truth & justice, she fails much like the mentioned countries, but attempts to maintain a moral chant, "we are a great nation" Again, Ha! The country will not fail due to Socialism, Communism, or going bankrupt from deficit spending. She will fail because of these kind of decisions, which given the historical pattern, demonstrates a lack of justice for particular victims. And the "process" had a predetermined outcome, which everyone predicted, so where is freedom & transparency? The rot of this judical system is overwhelming and Time will not get rid of the lasting smell.

kissofdeath
413
Points
kissofdeath 05/06/09 - 04:18 am
0
0
As I watched the video,

As I watched the video, Deputy Jose Ortiz was stupid and showed improper training and must thought he was Robo cop who in they right mind would have stand in front of a running SUV the fool placed himself in danger.I don't know why the black deputy Hodge faced a criminal indictment? On the video the only person you can see shooting through the front windshield is the hispanic deputy Ortiz.

wildman
1121
Points
wildman 05/06/09 - 04:38 am
0
0
Do not judge until you have

Do not judge until you have been in the situation these two cops were in. Your in an area known for crime, the person is a known criminal and he's trying run you down. Please.

Brad Owens
4444
Points
Brad Owens 05/06/09 - 05:33 am
0
0
Good. Now put these two back

Good. Now put these two back on the road where they can continue to protect and serve.

bone
23
Points
bone 05/06/09 - 05:39 am
0
0
justice served.

justice served.

Brad Owens
4444
Points
Brad Owens 05/06/09 - 05:42 am
0
0
constituent, out of the

constituent, out of the 38,000 or so gun realeted deaths a year in the U.S., how many are 'colored males' killed by other 'colored males'?

Brad Owens
4444
Points
Brad Owens 05/06/09 - 05:49 am
0
0
kissofdeath, most law abiding

kissofdeath, most law abiding citizens stop when ANYONE walks in front of thier vehicle, much less an officer of the law, pointing his pistol at you and telling you to stop. You all are just being idiots with your support of this Elmo trash. I guess life isn't like the movies where police bullets miss the bad guy in his truck or bounch off your SUV's windscreen huh? Yeah, in real life when you try to run down a cop and he shoots at you, his REAL bullets hit you in the head. You bleed REAL blood and REALLY die from the head shot. No restart button like in the Grand Theft Auto game either huh? Real bummer when REAL LIFE catches up with you like that huh? Good riddance.

Reality
3
Points
Reality 05/06/09 - 05:55 am
0
0
Too bad the idiot, gun

Too bad the idiot, gun brandishing black panthers couldn't be sharing the same fate.....Plenty of white men are shot committing crimes, the rest of us just don't go on a shooting and robbing spree....

Grasshopper
7
Points
Grasshopper 05/06/09 - 06:31 am
0
0
Police officers don't pull

Police officers don't pull their guns only to black people. I learned very quickly when a police officer pulls you over put your hands on the steering wheel and wait until he gets to the window. As an officer was approaching my car I leaned over and next thing was put your hand out the window, when I did and looked back I saw a Glock 40 pointed directly at me. People need to understand that Police Officers have to expect every person they pull over or approach has a weapon. The Police Officers who don't are the ones that get hurt/ killed.

Nero
0
Points
Nero 05/06/09 - 06:37 am
0
0
Did I miss the "repeal the

Did I miss the "repeal the first ammendment" vote?

toomuch
28
Points
toomuch 05/06/09 - 07:08 am
0
0
I read with interest the

I read with interest the initial comments yesterday, and it's obvious many of those commenting have never had the opportunity to serve on the grand jury. First of all, there's no such thing as a "secret" grand jury, as distinguished from a "regular" grand jury. The grand jury is the grand jury, and their sessions are ALWAYS behind closed doors, and the grand jurors are ALWAYS sworn to secrecy regarding presentations and deliberations. That is the way our system is set up, and it was done that way in order to protect the integrity of the jury system. The other thing that amuses me is that apparently some people think it's hand-picked group of a particular race or social standing. The truth is, the grand jury is comprised of a cross-section of our county; if Richmond County is 60% black, the grand jury is 60% black. And finally, I guarantee you that the videotape is only one piece of evidence the grand jury would have considered in rendering its decision. Having served on the grand jury under the guidance of both Danny Craig and now Ashley Wright, we are truly blessed in this community to have such a strong, wise, and fair DA's office.

sgachief
0
Points
sgachief 05/06/09 - 07:15 am
0
0
good for you Richmond co.

good for you Richmond co. grand jury. you got one right.

sgachief
0
Points
sgachief 05/06/09 - 07:15 am
0
0
good for you Richmond co.

good for you Richmond co. grand jury. you got one right.

overburdened_taxpayer
117
Points
overburdened_taxpayer 05/06/09 - 07:29 am
0
0
Justus - a black man or woman

Justus - a black man or woman is never at fault, is that what you are trying to tell us? We are just keeping the black man down? Then how do you explain Obama? Well, actually after seeing his policies and political motivations maybe that is one black man we should have kept down.

fish2
0
Points
fish2 05/06/09 - 07:32 am
0
0
I assure you if both police

I assure you if both police oficers were white they would have been indited.

braxtonbragg
0
Points
braxtonbragg 05/06/09 - 07:33 am
0
0
People, excuse those who are

People, excuse those who are blaming the cops for killing their drug dealing hero, Elmore. It is just the entitlement mentality shining through!

addisons65
0
Points
addisons65 05/06/09 - 07:40 am
0
0
Wow! No rioting? No burning

Wow! No rioting? No burning of public property? No defacing of public signs? I figured this community would use the acquittals as an excuse to do what they did the day the man was shot. Must be the slowdown of the economy because it sure couldn't be common sense. If it was common sense then the people wouldn't have rioted and destroyed/defaced public and private property the day this happened. I would have hated to see the actions that day had these officers been white. Maybe Jessee Jackson, himself, would have come down rather than Al Sharpton. I am glad the joury acquited these officers. The officers saved the public an untold amount of money by not having to house and feed this man, as well as the money that would be spent in time on arresting him yet again in the future. Looks like. Smells like. Acts like. Must be a crook!

wise
1
Points
wise 05/06/09 - 07:43 am
0
0
WoW after watching the video

WoW after watching the video its clear who is at fault the deputies. They are even pointing guns at others telling them to get away from the crime scene... In the video I did not see any threat to the officers. If you can not persue a suspect on a high speed chase in a residental area, why would you shoot a gun??

braxtonbragg
0
Points
braxtonbragg 05/06/09 - 07:45 am
0
0
40 caliber round 67 cents,

40 caliber round 67 cents, scum off the streets, priceless. Great job rcso.

ripjones
2
Points
ripjones 05/06/09 - 07:47 am
0
0
Good points Brad and Nero.

Good points Brad and Nero. The sad thing is that there are many "worthless birthing machines" in this town, both whilte and black, and there are legions of "Justin Elmores" in training right this very minute. Loving parental involvement would solve both of these problems. The cycle must be broken before things will get better.

ripjones
2
Points
ripjones 05/06/09 - 07:50 am
0
0
Wise - You must be related to

Wise - You must be related to Justus4. The officers are trained in what they do. Apparently, you are not.

thewaterman
0
Points
thewaterman 05/06/09 - 07:52 am
0
0
Well, again we see how much

Well, again we see how much we matter. Looking at the video it clearly shows Mr. Elmore was wrong for trying to run from the cops, but did it justify death. To all our black leaders that care about being seen in the press and getting votes, WHERE ARE YOU NOW????? These people in Cherry Tree are hurt and live in fear everyday. Fear of cops shooting them and nothing being done about it. We had people on the radio that spoke out about this type of cop abuse, but what did our Uncle Tom black leaders do...kicked him out of town for messing with their MASTERS!! Kudos! to officer Hodges and Ortiz, you got off. But what about the next policeman that shoots and kill a minority. What Then ?? We need some type of peace relations between the police and the urban communities. NOW!!!!!

overburdened_taxpayer
117
Points
overburdened_taxpayer 05/06/09 - 07:57 am
0
0
I see thewaterman - police

I see thewaterman - police shooting whites is ok but if they shoot a minority they are automatically wrong. Hmmmm and considering that both deputies were MINORITIES they must have been furthering the MASTERS agenda huh? Ever consider that there are criminals of ALL races that put THEMSELVES in the situation by their life choices?

Riverman1
84076
Points
Riverman1 05/06/09 - 08:11 am
0
0
It may be unclear in the

It may be unclear in the video because the side window does not shatter, but in the photos in the Chronicle at the time of the shooting, there was at least one bullet hole in the passenger side window. Ortiz does fire at the vehicle after it has passed him if you look closely. In addition, Ortiz is in the street and Elmore jumps up on the side walk grass to go around him. He was not threatening Ortiz with the vehicle. My question would be what shot actually was the one that killed Elmore?

thewaterman
0
Points
thewaterman 05/06/09 - 08:13 am
0
0
overburdened taxpayer - I

overburdened taxpayer - I understand what you are saying, but when I say police shooting minorities...I'm talking about the police as a whole, not individual police or their race. Now you have to admit..it is less police brutality and shootings in white neighborhoods than in black neighborhoods. And when I commented about the MASTERS...I was talking about all those Black leaders that were in Cherry Tree Crossing just to be on the news and possible gain some votes when they run for office. I said we had a radio host that talked about all of these issues and our Black leaders kicked him off the air and out of town, because their white superiors did not like what he was saying... AND THAT"S A FACT

SCGAL53
0
Points
SCGAL53 05/06/09 - 08:17 am
0
0
So maybe the "baby momma"

So maybe the "baby momma" will teach his kids that crime does not pay. Hurray for RCSD!

Brad Owens
4444
Points
Brad Owens 05/06/09 - 08:19 am
0
0
thewaterman (or is it

thewaterman (or is it Ryan-B?), you said, "These people in Cherry Tree are hurt and live in fear everyday. Fear of cops shooting them and nothing being done about it." WRONG. They may live in fear but it is thier own faults for allowing the Elmo's of the world to sell drugs and pretend they are in South Central L.A.. In fact, the chances of getting shot by a guy like Elmo (or one of his stray bullets from a drive by) is much more likely than from a trained LEO. Just spend a few minutes looking up the FACTS on gun violence in the U.S. and minority communities. I think you will find the actual FACTS don't support your victum complex.

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