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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Phish
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Phish 05/06/09 - 08:20 am
0
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Waterman, maybe the reason

Waterman, maybe the reason there is less killing in white neighborhoods than in black hoods is when white folks get stopped by Police they stay stopped until the Police says go. Its called respect for authority look it up!!! That is your answer to a peaceful relation between the police and urban communities!

crackertroy
540
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crackertroy 05/06/09 - 08:27 am
0
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Justice.
Unpublished

Justice.

SargentMidTown
8
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SargentMidTown 05/06/09 - 08:30 am
0
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A few more "good killings"

A few more "good killings" and there would not be bank robberies on Walton Way. I despise that trash.

puppy
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puppy 05/06/09 - 08:30 am
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To the Waterman----Why don't

To the Waterman----Why don't you get involved in the community of Cherrytree Crossing and give your Time, Wisdom and Leadership to the young men? It is very easy to spout your mouth in this section of the newspaper but very rarely do you see where some one like Yourself will take the time to try to really make a difference in these projects. There are 13 projects in Richmond county and they all need Responsible, Respected, Black and White men to be mentors to the children. Get involved and put your words to go use.

Brad Owens
4583
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Brad Owens 05/06/09 - 08:34 am
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and oh by the way, Ryan-B was

and oh by the way, Ryan-B was 'run out of town' because he lied on the air and lost two very large lawsuits against him due to that fact. The African-American leadership had NOTHING to do with his being taken off the air.

RoadkiII
6629
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RoadkiII 05/06/09 - 08:45 am
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It is easy to give an opinion

It is easy to give an opinion on what one thinks is right or wrong, but think about the facts...unless you are the individual who is trained to serve and protect innocent victims and who is standing in their shoes I think your opinion would change. This criminal put himself in this situation not the police. I am sure he was told to stop and freeze. Do not think that this guy was not warned first. The police do not kill in cold blood like some of these criminals that certain ones are claiming is the victim here. Think about what would have happened if these two officers did not stop this guy? Oh, I forgot then some would be moaning about how the police did not do their job. The police are placed in damned if they do and damned if they don't situations when it comes to dealing with the public.

cparker
83
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cparker 05/06/09 - 09:00 am
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I have always said that if

I have always said that if they video suggested he tried to run over the policeman, he deserved to be shot and stopped. We can clearly see Officer Ortiz standing in front of truck ordering Mr. Elmore to get out. Mr. Elmore made a fatal decision to put that truck in drive and driveoff towards an armed policeman ordering him to stop. I don't agree with the racial overtone of the whites commenting today, but I do agree that Mr. Elmore created this problem after watching the video.

tonyt15street
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tonyt15street 05/06/09 - 09:04 am
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This whole process from the

This whole process from the beginning was a joke. The cowboy officers, The sherriff, the mayor, the black political leaders, the NAACP, the hospital, internal affairs,GBI, the DA, AND THIS COMMUNITY. No Due Process, Violation of Civil Rights and slave mentallity treatment of people in social economic disadvataged areas. No Justice. This case should have been turned over to the FBI BECAUSE YOU ARE DEALING WITH FRIENDS. THEY TAKE OF THEIR OWN. WE ARE NOT FOOLS, OUR BLACK LEADERS ARE FENCE RIDERS. NO ONE WILL EVER STAND UP TO THE SHERRIFF AND HIS COWBOYS. DR. KING WAS A REAL LEADER AND FIGHTER. HE STOOD FOR JUSTICE AT ANY COST. OUR LEADERS ARE COWARDS.

andywarhol
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andywarhol 05/06/09 - 09:05 am
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Um, yeah, congress needs to

Um, yeah, congress needs to pass a law that we kill more white guys and let black guys ram police cars and go away free to deal another day. Your statement reflects the same mentality of these thugs. I feel sorry for the African Americans that are living Dr. King's dream that have to deal with "their people" bringing down the reputation of blacks.

andywarhol
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andywarhol 05/06/09 - 09:08 am
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Justus, in these other

Justus, in these other countries you mention some of them would've given Elmo the death penalty swiftly for his first drug charge. This is the land of the free where a person can be arrested over a dozen times and still walk free. I hope your vision of the future isn't to have criminals like him terrorizing people in every neighborhood.

tonyt15street
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tonyt15street 05/06/09 - 09:15 am
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i disagree with your opinion,

i disagree with your opinion, you can clearly see the cowboy walking in front of the car after he backs up. the kill shot hit him in the back of the head. the d.a wasted our time and money with her little show. she knew they were going to let the officers off; just like pilate she put it back on the people to clear her name and conceience (spell check). she did not present all of th evidence and witness. this was more smoke screens and mirrors. the media played its part in trying mr. elmore. how much media attention did the two officers get. they have incidents of this nature in their files (making situations dangerous). cowboys, real cowboys, but we know attitude reflects leadership.

cparker
83
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cparker 05/06/09 - 09:16 am
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It seems strange to me that

It seems strange to me that the police and the media went to great lengths to not tell us who owns the SUV Mr. Elmore was driving. At first they said it was stolen, but later said it was legally registered, but to who? Its a bit fishy to catch this man in a $30K truck with drugs and guns, but refuse to disclose who owned it? All these white folks are on this site trashing Mr. Elmore, but I think there is a growing problem trying to keep those young white girls from Columbia county from chasing those brothers in the projects. I see white girls in expensive cars all the time in the projects with the likes of Mr. Elmore. BMW',s, Mercedes, & SUV's that are obviously out of place, especially since the passengers are always young white women in the center of Augusta's drug hotspots. Stop the hypocrisy over this story because we all know white folks are violent as hell and will kill one another just as accuse blacks of doing. This story shouldn't make white this comfortable to talk ill of Mr. Elmore because since his death whites have started killing one another in Columbia county as though they are in Darfur except for their skin color. WHO'S SUV IS IT???

MyTake
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MyTake 05/06/09 - 09:18 am
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Judging from the videotape,

Judging from the videotape, the first two shots were in self defense, the next 20 were an execution. Further those last 20 shots were fired with the apartment buildings as a backstop. If self defense is the sole issue, who was there to act for the residents who were in deadly danger? Things happen, and there is not much use second guessing snap decisions made in the heat of battle. But I can see how the residents would take a different view. Just telling people to stay quiet is not going to wrap it in a bubble and make it go away.

braxtonbragg
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braxtonbragg 05/06/09 - 09:21 am
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tony, give it a rest, no one

tony, give it a rest, no one agrees with you. Elmore needed to be put down and he was-- by two minority law officers. Too bad lil elmore didn't obey the instructios--end of story.

tonyt15street
0
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tonyt15street 05/06/09 - 09:23 am
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the cops police each area

the cops police each area differently, they have the mentallity that some of you posting express. they think they are above these people sometimes i wonder if some of you are cops on line venting about black people. this country will never come together.

Riverman1
84893
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Riverman1 05/06/09 - 09:29 am
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Lots of racist, philosophical

Lots of racist, philosophical diatribe from both sides here. I'd like to stick to the video. Emore went up on the sidewalk and grass to avoid Ortiz. He was not trying to run over him. The video shows Ortiz shooting in the side window after Elmore has passed him. To me, that is clearly not self defense. Is it the heat of the battle, or what have you...probably, but not self defense. If the shot that killed Elmore was actually a shot in the back of the head, I believe it was caused by the shot in the passenger side window as Elmore turned his head away from the shots being fired. Anyone care to comment on the specifics of the video?

Brad Owens
4583
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Brad Owens 05/06/09 - 09:29 am
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cparker sez, "I think there

cparker sez, "I think there is a growing problem trying to keep those young white girls from Columbia county from chasing those brothers in the projects" Yeah, Cocaine is a heck of a drug.

sueboo418
37
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sueboo418 05/06/09 - 09:33 am
0
0
Riverman, WHO CARES where the

Riverman, WHO CARES where the shot came from as you keep on and on and on about!! If the idiot had not tried to run he'd still be alive, probably in jail, BUT alive.

ThurstonHowell
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ThurstonHowell 05/06/09 - 09:35 am
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cparker IS on crack, be

cparker IS on crack, be serious

Riverman1
84893
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Riverman1 05/06/09 - 09:37 am
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Sueboo, it's true he would

Sueboo, it's true he would probably be alive if he hadn't tried to pull away. The location of where the shots came from is important in determing if the officer was acting in self-defense. There were no shots fired through the back window so if the one that killed him did, in fact, strike him in the back of the head, it must have been the side shot as he drove past Ortiz. Unless he did an Exorcist Linda Blair type move and spun his head around and the shot in the front hit him in the back of the head.

chey
2
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chey 05/06/09 - 09:41 am
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I'd kinda like to know who

I'd kinda like to know who owned the SUV as well? not that it matters anymore. But since it was brought up... why not?

braxtonbragg
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braxtonbragg 05/06/09 - 09:41 am
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riverman, who cares. He was

riverman, who cares. He was a career welfare criminal, sorry but, good riddance!

js_ee
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js_ee 05/06/09 - 09:42 am
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While the name calling and

While the name calling and degradation of Mr. Elmore is unnecessary, the officers did what they are trained to do. He used his SUV as a weapon and paid the ultimate price. We can all sit here today and say what we would have done, but until you are in that situation...you really don't know. Instead of trashing Mr. Elmor and condemning the officers involved, we should be praying for the families involved.

buckfiddy
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buckfiddy 05/06/09 - 09:43 am
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Well from the video the cops

Well from the video the cops put the lives of other residents at risk by carelessly shooting in a very populated area like that.And just remember folks one day these thugs with badges could have a shootout in your neighborhood with your kids walking around to.

JackBootedThug
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JackBootedThug 05/06/09 - 09:54 am
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Don't run from the po-leece

Don't run from the po-leece and bad things probably won't happen. Thanks to Deputies Ortiz and Hodge for following their training. Thanks also to the R.C. grand jury. You got this one right.

thewaterman
0
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thewaterman 05/06/09 - 09:57 am
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Brad Owens (or is it Mr.

Brad Owens (or is it Mr. Charlie?) I can tell you never lived or experienced living in a high crime area. My assumption is that you don't really give a flying **** about what happens downtown as long as it does not involve your world. True, you can get shot by the everyday person in a high crime area, but 9 times out of 10 it's the police who are brutalizing and harassing the people of poor urban communities. Oh Yeah...the reason I said our So-Called black leaders ran the only person out of town who was speaking up for us...look back at the news and who do you see all together our So Called black leaders on TV saying he has to go. The lawsuits were a small part of it, but those puppets got on TV and put him out. Then they get on TV when the shooting happened and did what..raise their fist. WHERE ARE THEY NOW???? I want to call their names out. but I will not cause that's all they want is publicity. If our legal system betrayed the Black community, WHERE ARE OUR BLACK LEADERS NOW?????????????

Dukedirtbag
0
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Dukedirtbag 05/06/09 - 10:00 am
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the sad result of watching

the sad result of watching one too many Gangsta movies or one too many sessions of Grand Theft Auto...welcome to reality

andywarhol
0
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andywarhol 05/06/09 - 10:09 am
0
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Your black community betrayed

Your black community betrayed themselves by making a martyr of someone not deserving. I admit there is racism and discrimination, but can't you find a person more deserving of your passion?

sueboo418
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sueboo418 05/06/09 - 10:16 am
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That cop had a split second

That cop had a split second to decide what to do. He thought he was fixing to be run over more than likely and did what he had to do. Elmore should have never tried to run from them and this would not have happened!!!! End of story people!!! Pray for all families involved and MOVE ON!!!!

tonyt15street
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tonyt15street 05/06/09 - 10:18 am
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cop are killing blacks all

cop are killing blacks all over the country and claimimg self defense, hogwash; undertrained trigger happy cowboys. they anwser to the sherriff who anwsers to the governor in augusta. the police department anwsered to the people, this is what we need back in town. i feel like i live in a straight old school western town with a sherriff and his wlid above the law deputized (spell check) wild wild west cowboys. they went out and shot up this other guys car right after killing mr. elmore. this guy had disrepected his mother. this was not self defense, just thewild wild west cowboys taking target practice and knowing they will walk because the sherriff runs this town. the black leaders are uncle toms, all of them. plain and simple fence riders.

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