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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MaskedMan
0
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MaskedMan 05/06/09 - 09:23 am
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Did some fool say people in

Did some fool say people in Cherry Tree live in fear every day?? That's true. It's from ignorant, stupid people like Elmore. Rollin on dem rims, got da bass thumpin....meanwhile, he can't afford his own house, child support or anything real. I, for one, am glad he's gone. Now there only about 600 left in there to clean up.

cparker
83
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cparker 05/06/09 - 09:24 am
0
0
White folks wish I were on

White folks wish I were on crack!! I want to know who owned the SUV. I bet there is something behind the ownership of that truck. Before this is over, I bet a white person of interest was involved with this. It never amazes me that whites make crazy comments about blacks when they are killing one another and selling drugs right there in lilly white Columbia county. Watch all the racist comments today, but watch all the sympathy given to white murderers. Mr. Elmore is not a martyr for blacks, we have some how forgot that he has a family willing to love him regardless of what has happened. Stop the hypocrisy so we can all get pass this. Immorality has no race, no gender, and no address!!

braxtonbragg
0
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braxtonbragg 05/06/09 - 09:28 am
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cparker, and your comments

cparker, and your comments aren't racist. That's a two way street, sweets!

justthefacts
25477
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justthefacts 05/06/09 - 09:30 am
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cparker, just so you know, no

cparker, just so you know, no one is swallowing that bs, but, if living in your dreamworld keeps you bliss, have at it.

tonyt15street
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tonyt15street 05/06/09 - 09:38 am
0
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the cops do not have the

the cops do not have the right to shoot us if we run from them. you are telling me that if i decide to run they can shoot me and deny me due process and violate my civil rights. what you are saying they have the rights of officers in these third world countries, old school cowboy towns and germany under hitler, to deal with it as you please and it will be okay. they could not see in the car as they said, what trained officer shoots in a car they can not see into. what trained officer shoots up a neighborhood like this. reminds me of denzel washington from training day. did you hear the cursing in thevideo. mr. elmore would have been chased if he was in a white neighborhood.

law
0
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law 05/06/09 - 09:56 am
0
0
Wow it truly amazes me that

Wow it truly amazes me that people would be so ignorant to think the officers were in the wrong. Let me just ask you this. Put yourself in the cops shoes. If you were pursing a suspect and fails to stop and then tries to run you over hmmm what do you do? You would pull your gun on them. Even if you weren't a cop if someone tries to flee from you and tries to run you over YOu would have probably shot at them too to save yourself. And I'm so tried of hearing "oh we live in fear of the cops now". Its simple don't commit crimes and you don't have to worry about the cops harming you. come on people being a cop is a JOB. I know most of you don't know what its like to have one but you can't just go around shooting people for no reason and get away with it. Those deputies acted as they were trained and acted with common sense. Thank god it wasn't a white cop, i'm sure then it would have been some racial thing. This whole racial crap is getting so old!! Get over it! Everyone struggles!!!Look around you! If you don't go out committing crimes and act like an idiiot then you have nothing to worry about. This had nothing to do with race, If ANYBODY did what he did the results would be the same!

tonyt15street
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tonyt15street 05/06/09 - 10:01 am
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A panel of Prince George's

A panel of Prince George's County police commanders has contradicted the findings of an internal investigation and the conclusions of a grand jury, ruling that a police officer had no justification for firing a shot that paralyzed an unarmed man, according to documents.
The Executive Review Panel was created to provide oversight into allegations of police misconduct after a 10-year period in which Prince George's police shot and killed the most people, per officer, of the 50 largest police departments in the nation. WE HAVE THE SAME PROBLEM ,WHERE IS OUR PANEL.

law
0
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law 05/06/09 - 10:05 am
0
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Another thing! Since everyone

Another thing! Since everyone obviously thinks they can do a better job. The sherriff's Office excepts applications on Tues and Thurs. Since all you seem to know so much about law enforcement and can do a better job. See how it really is once you go thru the academy and realize that there use of deadly force was correct! Step into there world then come talk to me. I assure you your opinion will be changed. Maybe the public should be educated on the use of deadly force by law enforcement maybe then we wouldn't have to worry about ignorant people rioting for a CRIMINAL. HAHAHA EVERYBODY HATES THE POLICE BUT WHEN CRAP HITS THE FAN THESE SAME PEOPLE SURE ARE THE FIRST TO CALL THEM. BRAVO TO OUR SHERIFF'S OFFICE. THEY SHOULD HAVE NEVER FACED CHARGES BUT INSTEAD AWARDED FOR A JOB WELL DONE.

law
0
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law 05/06/09 - 10:10 am
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tony for your information.

tony for your information. his vehicle is considered a weapon when he rammed a police officer in his car and then tried to run over the other cop. therefor he was armed and dangerous. how about the children that man could have hit??? huh not only were the deputies acting out for their own safety but for the whole neighborhood. just think of how many innocent bystanders and kids elmore could have hit! come on use your brain and think a little people. it wasn't all about the deputy its for out society projects or high class neighborhood they would have done the same thing to protect us. thats there job: to serve and protect!!

Jannek2
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Jannek2 05/06/09 - 10:15 am
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Does everyone forget that

Does everyone forget that Deputy Ortiz had just recently been suspended for misuse of a police vehicle...leaving his call to join in a highspeed chase that did NOT involve him. All I see when I watch this video is an absolutely disgusting abuse of power. It's no wonder that no one trusts police officers. I'm not saying that Mr. Elmore didn't deserve to be arrested...but murdered...I think not. It's okay though..these deputies will have to live with this on their mind for the rest of their lives and they can take it up when they meet their maker. Karma will catch up with them. My sympathy goes out to Mr. Elmore's loved ones.

God save America
62
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God save America 05/06/09 - 10:21 am
0
0
constituent if you are

constituent if you are pulled over by the police stop and find out why they were stopped. you don't run into a police car then try to run over a cop given him no choice. if he had not been a drug dealer he might not have3 been stopped. i don't care what color you are you don't try to run over a policeman. you also don't need to have drugs and guns in your car. i saw where it was said that he was a nice drug dealer no such thing.

tonyt15street
0
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tonyt15street 05/06/09 - 10:24 am
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WHERE IS OUR PANEL, WHERE IS

WHERE IS OUR PANEL, WHERE IS OUR JUSTICE,WHERE IS OUR DUE PROCESS, WHERE IS OUR PROTECTION OF CIVIL RIGHTS. ATTITUDE REFLECTS LEADERSHIP. IF THE COMMUNITY DOES NOT VOICE THEIR OPPINION THIS WILL CONTINUE TO HAPPEN. WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVE, CONGRESSMAN, MAYOR AND SENATOR AND ASK WHERE IS OUR PANEL.
When High came to the chief's job in May 2003, he pledged to improve the department's performance. One of his initiatives was establishing the Executive Review Panel to improve oversight over police shootings, in-custody deaths and other uses of force, said Hamm, the police spokeswoman. High established the panel to review whether police policies and training needs to be changed and to consider the actions of individual officers, Hamm said.

law
0
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law 05/06/09 - 10:24 am
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oh really JANNEk2. So since

oh really JANNEk2. So since you seem to know everything. If Mr. Elmore more was fleeing from you and tried to run you and your partner over what would you have done? He put himself in that position. Police officers are entitled to use deadly force when their lives and others are put in danger. He could have killed an officer or a child. They had to do what they did to protect themselves and the community.

law
0
Points
law 05/06/09 - 10:30 am
0
0
hey TONY if this guy was

hey TONY if this guy was selling drugs to your children and robbing them and just running all over town running from cops hitting them with his car using it as a WEAPON would you still be defending him? How about if he and killed an innocent person?

overburdened_taxpayer
117
Points
overburdened_taxpayer 05/06/09 - 10:34 am
0
0
thewaterman - the only reason

thewaterman - the only reason you hear about a disproportionate number of "minorities" being killed than whites is that first of all, you always hear about the minorities on the news FOR DAYS. When it is a white that is shot, we don't rant and rave as a race and it is out of the news within a couple of days. Most of us believe that if he/she was shot by the police then they probably did something to deserve it, especially if they have a criminal record a mile long. Even when they kill a white it is investigated like Elmore's case was but as a race we don't automatically assume the police were wrong until proven innocent. We believe that the police are justified (notice I didn't say innocent) unless an investigation proves different.

Little Lamb
49247
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Little Lamb 05/06/09 - 10:40 am
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I was just thinking that had

I was just thinking that had Elmore lived, Augusta would be in the middle of the biggest lawsuit in a while.

tonyt15street
0
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tonyt15street 05/06/09 - 10:42 am
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0
police must be trained to

police must be trained to handle minorities in sociol disadvataged area differently than others. profiling still exist, some minority officersare worst than some white officers in these instances. you can clearly see ortiz looking excitement. he was said to be the only officer to run to his trunk and get an assault weapon. i heard from someone that saw the full video that he went into his trunk and came out with an assault weapon cursing and yelling at all the people in the vicinity. he would have continue to spray the neighborhood, he is a real cowboy. don't forget he was written up for joining a chase and making the situation dangerous. he's a real cowboy. the car backs up and he runs in front of the car looking for confrontation. real cowboy car veers far left to miss him and he says this my chance to shoot someone. they could not see in the car and unloaded in it. they shot up the neighborhood , oh that's right they were trying to stop him from hitting kids. be for real. the grand jury deal was all smoke screens and mirrors. ashley wright, great show for the commuity. where is our panel.

overburdened_taxpayer
117
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overburdened_taxpayer 05/06/09 - 10:42 am
0
0
He may have only tried to run

He may have only tried to run over one cop and not Ortiz, but they have to make a decision in a split second and since he did try to run over ONE COP then in that split second they have to decide that if he escapes and travels at a high rate of speed or recklessly, does he pose more of a threat to the rest of Augusta if allowed to leave the scene or not. Considering that he tried to run over Hodge until he started shooting, Ortiz had every responsibility to shoot even though he was on the side and not in front.

tonyt15street
0
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tonyt15street 05/06/09 - 10:46 am
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they must train them to shoot

they must train them to shoot minorities first and ask questions later at these training. so i guest they have policing minorities class. because there is a visable difference.

TheShep
0
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TheShep 05/06/09 - 10:46 am
0
0
Why is race even an issue?

Why is race even an issue? The cops were hispanic and black. What if they shot at hispanics? or whites? Would there still be an uproar? No.

Lippy
0
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Lippy 05/06/09 - 10:47 am
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The sad thing is, had Elmore

The sad thing is, had Elmore just gotten out of the vehicle and complied with the officer's instructions, he'd still be roaming the Cherry Tree streets today. Sure he'd have gotten arrested, but some idiotic judge in RC would have let him off with probation and a fine, just like every other time he'd been arrested. Elmore tried to run, he was shot and killed....no one to blame but himself.

overburdened_taxpayer
117
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overburdened_taxpayer 05/06/09 - 10:47 am
0
0
As a group, blacks start

As a group, blacks start crying racist even before they know what happened in these situations.

lottiedo2
0
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lottiedo2 05/06/09 - 10:53 am
0
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I bet the babies that Ms.

I bet the babies that Ms. McNair is pregnant with aren't even his! She'll be on a future episode of Maury, I can sense it!

law
0
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law 05/06/09 - 10:55 am
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Yea i mean common sense if a

Yea i mean common sense if a cop tries to stop you and you run at him then its his decision whether or not his person is a threat to the community which you can clearly see in the video that he was. Running all over the neighborhood in high rates of speed. Crashing into patrol cars tryin to run over a deputy. He deserved exactly what he got. If was a normal citizen and worked a REAL JOB and wasn't a criminal then he would be alive today. But NO he made the choice to become what he was and got exactly what he deserved. Sorry I feel no sympathy. Thank god one less criminal off the streets to stop robbing people and selling drugs! You know this country is messed up when people start defending drug dealers and criminals. Guess we should just fire all the police and let CRIMINALS run the streets and Y not lets just let them run the country. They are great people. He only robs and sells drugs to kids, But hey he is a great man! Haha how ignorant people can be.

Purelaughs
0
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Purelaughs 05/06/09 - 10:55 am
0
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This is just ridiculous that

This is just ridiculous that this is such a well discussed topic over a low life being shot. You make mistakes in life you pay the consequences. His clear disregard for the law and past history only put the cops "on edge" when approaching his vehicle. How would any common individual to respond to a situation of being nearly ran over by a vehicle? Would you just wave at him while he hauls butt through a neighborhood and only seconds from a school zone? Doubtfully!

Brad Owens
4914
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Brad Owens 05/06/09 - 10:58 am
0
0
tonyt15street is NOT who is

tonyt15street is NOT who is pretending to be. He is a troll. Look at his last statements. Total Troll.

KSL
144571
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KSL 05/06/09 - 10:58 am
0
0
Is tony saying the criminals

Is tony saying the criminals in socially disadvantaged areas should be given special treatment by law enforcement?

jack
11
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jack 05/06/09 - 10:59 am
0
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Jusrass4, before you flap

Jusrass4, before you flap your ignorant gums, find out how many blacks were on the grand jury. I am sure there were some as required by law. As for blakc males being killed by law enforcement, seems they are the predominant criminals in our society per the police prorams I watch of actual law enforcement in progress/concluded. Sure seems that way in Richmond County/Augusta according to the news paper and TV reports. Thesee two officers did their duty as trained. Good for them as there is more scum off the streets.

tonyt15street
0
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tonyt15street 05/06/09 - 10:59 am
0
0
Racism can be displayed by

Racism can be displayed by ones own race. You have blacks that don't care for other blacks and so on, however in these instances we opperate under a racist judicial system. Why does powder cocaine considerably lest jail time than crack cocaine. How can a banker or white business man steal money and go to a resort for a short time, why don't we stop the people leaving the Augusta Country club or Masters who we know have been drinking and driving. i ha seen officers posted outside of black night spots waiting to get some DUI CASES. Why are speed traps and police road stops set up in minority neighborhood. I could continue for days. WHERE IS OUR PANEL?

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
11294
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 05/06/09 - 11:02 am
0
0
Racism being defined by the

Racism being defined by the very definition of Racism!

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