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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Lippy
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Lippy 05/06/09 - 11:02 am
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Talk about an ignorant

Talk about an ignorant comment, "Well from the video the cops put the lives of other residents at risk by carelessly shooting in a very populated area like that." HELLO MORON - they wouldn't have shot had Elmore not tried to run them down with his SUV! Unbelievable! BTW - this was from buckfiddy's 9:43am post. Moron.

glorysing42
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glorysing42 05/06/09 - 11:06 am
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I don't feel that the police

I don't feel that the police officer were in any danger at all he was not shooting at them he was simply just trying to get away they may have gotten away with it but one thing i can say is they didn't get away for my god they could have stop him another way. For the bible says thy shall not kill and thats what they have done. Kill that man for nothing and no reason at. What was the reason they was stopping him anyways

tonyt15street
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tonyt15street 05/06/09 - 11:07 am
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purelaughs i think we all

purelaughs i think we all have civil rights, neither cop was being ran down. ortiz walked in front of a moving vehicle looking for confrontation (tough guy with a gun and badge) while the other officer had walked away from his car and was not in danger. if you put your finger on ortiz head you will see he only turned sideways, because the car went so far left. he should have stop but he has civil rights and a right to due process. we gave it to charles manson. some of you care more about dogs more than minorities.

Lippy
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Lippy 05/06/09 - 11:11 am
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glorysing, um - stopped him

glorysing, um - stopped him another way? They were standing outside their vehicles. What was another option? Kicking the vehicle as it raced towards them? You're just as ignorant as buckfiddy....possibly more so.

jack
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jack 05/06/09 - 11:12 am
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tony15street, you need to

tony15street, you need to stop blowing those bubbles in your bath water. Were you at the incident-no. Were you on the grand jury?- no. Have you seen ANY of the evidence presented to the grand jury? no. So quit blowing your bubbles in the bath tub as that is all your rediculous statements amount to.

tonyt15street
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tonyt15street 05/06/09 - 11:21 am
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DeKalb grand jury finds 1 of

DeKalb grand jury finds 1 of 12 police shootings unjustified
DECATUR, Ga. AP A special DeKalb County grand jury has found that one of 12 fatal shootings involving county police in 2006 was unjustified, and recommended further criminal investigation of one of the officers involved. The grand jury, which met twice a week over the last year, issued a lengthy report Thursday recommending policy changes at the police department, including more training in the use of force. The.... Far from an egregious exception, the Chicago Police Department's handling of the Ware case fits a pattern of officials rushing to clear officers who shoot civilians, an eight-month Tribune investigation found.

The inquiry, which reviewed available records for more than 200 police shooting cases over the last decade, found that these cursory police investigations create a separate standard of justice and fuel the fear among some citizens that officers can shoot people with impunity.

In at least a dozen cases, police shot civilians in the back or from behind. But in the Ware case, as in many other police shootings, it took a civil suit for the troubling details of the case to emerge publicly.

Humanity101
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Humanity101 05/06/09 - 11:22 am
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First of all HERE WE GO

First of all HERE WE GO AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No matter what REMEMBER there is a family grieving end of story. I am not from Augusta and glad that I am not if the people who make comments such as the above are my neighbors!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No matter who Justin was he was still LOVED just as somebody LOVES you regardless of how ignorant you are. I am sure the police are having some issues also, they did kill someone.......................................Prayers go out to all involved.

gnumbgnuts
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gnumbgnuts 05/06/09 - 11:27 am
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I say Richmond County should

I say Richmond County should hire only black deputies. That way when a deputy is forced to defend him/herself, all of these idiots defending an obvious career criminal will stay where they belong. (hidden in the woodwork)

6Romans23
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6Romans23 05/06/09 - 11:30 am
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Glory, my bible...surly the

Glory, my bible...surly the same as yours also says to respect and abide by the laws of our government, or face the punishment by that government. I say RCPD needs to take all task forces out of that community, let them deal with their own the way they see fit, and while at it take away all the government handouts, housing, food, recreational, all of the things they do not pay for or appreciate that their big bad racist judicial system has continuously handed to them.

Lippy
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Lippy 05/06/09 - 11:31 am
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tonyt15street - Ortiz wasn't

tonyt15street - Ortiz wasn't being a tough guy, he was doing his job. They were ordering Elmore out of the vehicle. Ortiz stepped in front to assure Elmore saw the officers and knew they meant business. You're right, some of us do care about dogs more than drug dealing, gun toting, criminals like Elmore. Heck, some dogs listen better than Elmore did. Get a life.

Lippy
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Lippy 05/06/09 - 11:46 am
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Just to clarify - I'm not

Just to clarify - I'm not referring to minorities as dogs, just Elmore.

tonyt15street
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tonyt15street 05/06/09 - 11:46 am
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jack were you, no i didn't

jack were you, no i didn't think so. you only know what you heard. that the cops recieved a call that this person was in a stolen vehicle(vehicle not stolen) with guns (no guns)and drugs(his weed to smoke)in it. sherriff strenght said that he rammed police cars(let's use the word bumped) officer ortiz saw the car go in reverse and he something was about to happen(so he ran out to block the car in with his body) when he turned the wheel far left miss mr. rubber bumper man ,ortiz opened fire. he passed ortiz by jumping the curve, however ortiz was still firing shots, in which one of the shots from the side hit him in the back of his head. they continued to fire at the car as it rode through the housing area disregarding residents. shooting into houses. the gbi whom are good friends as is internal affairs, the da, and a number of our black leaders with the sherriff. who really expected this go any other way. the da would not have snt it to the grand jury if she thought it was justified.

tonyt15street
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tonyt15street 05/06/09 - 11:49 am
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lippy you are just speaking

lippy you are just speaking your mind, show your real colors. minorities beware this guys works with you as does some these other under cover racist.

braxtonbragg
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braxtonbragg 05/06/09 - 12:00 pm
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tony, who is undercover, you.

tony, who is undercover, you. You seem to be the only racist on this board. Too bad there is no cure for stupid--you are doomed

mcgRT2010
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mcgRT2010 05/06/09 - 12:09 pm
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First off. It does not

First off. It does not matter what he was being pulled over for. If you have nothing to hide then just pull over. Obviously there was some reason he did not want to be pulled over. To tony15street you say the police were shooting in the residecne but you do not notice that Mr. Elmore took off along the side of the housing apartments so your argument that Mr. Ortiz out the people in jepordy at the Cherry Tree housings by shooting, so did Elmore by crossing onto the grass where people often are. Just to be fair both put people in danger. You act like Elmore did nothing and should not have been shot. Finally everyone keeps saying that black men get unjustly shot at by the police. The police in this incident were all non-white. That brings me to my final point. Mr. Elmore had an image of toughness in the neighborhood. If you try to live a tough image and intemidate people, you can't help but have an inclined amount of fear involved with this traffic stop. If you are blaming the police you are wrong. It starts with the community to change thier image. Go to college an get a degree and no one will go in there with guns pulled fearing for thier life trying to protect others.

chey
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chey 05/06/09 - 12:17 pm
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Tonyt from 15th st. while I

Tonyt from 15th st. while I don't agree with all you are saying. You seem to be compassionate about it. Why don't you organize something? stop posting behind your computer and start your own panel. Don't ask where are the black leaders, be one. I believe Elmore got what was coming to him by living on the other side of the law. He should have stopped when he was told. But on the other hand, I have experienced a few billy bad a** cops who want a good argument and only want to fight. I think we've all experienced those. I think here we have a man (Mr. Elmore) who grew up with drugs and never stepped outside the box or maybe didn't know how to step outside the box and do better for himself. The sad thing is, there are a lot of children growing up like this. I'm not making excuses for him, common sense says to stop when an officer pulls you over ...I'm just trying to understand all angles.

kissofdeath
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kissofdeath 05/06/09 - 12:32 pm
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Brad Owens what are you a

Brad Owens what are you a idiot what goes around comes around. I tell you what go join the Richmond County Sheriff patrol poster boy and stand in front of my SUV and see what transpire you low life.White males are killing white males by gun fire at a high rate walking in churches,school,nursing home and killing their kids and their spouse a totally coward action that have led to 50,000 suicide gun killing a year,How you like them apples blue eyed fiend ?

jedex6
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jedex6 05/06/09 - 12:33 pm
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There may be many unsnswered

There may be many unsnswered questions here, but just from a cursory examination of the case, there doesn't seem to be any grounds for calling this police brutality. Probably if the officers had been better trained, more skillful, or had not felt that their lives were in danger they would not have fired at and hit the suspect. You cannot convict police officers if they thought they were acting as best as they were able. Even if they acted unskillfully, that does not make a case for brutality, least of all murder. A tragic case any way you look at it. The real question is why do so many young black males get into crime and drugs in the first place. Social pathology is a cycle that is passed from one generation to the next, and is diffucult to break. To say the least.

dustins803
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dustins803 05/06/09 - 12:35 pm
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I am a Deputy with the

I am a Deputy with the sheriffs office. This is to all of you that call us cowboys, murders, and other names.. Please put yourself in our shoes.. Put an application in, and try to do what we do.. Its easy to sit at home in the comfort and security that we protect and say I would do this or that if it were me.. You can talk the talk, but I promise you cant walk the walk.. I support both deputies and can say they did as they were trained.. If you don't believe it, go through the training yourself..

jedex6
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jedex6 05/06/09 - 12:44 pm
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kissofdeath, You are right.

kissofdeath, You are right. White males are commiting the horrendous acts of mass murder in this country. But two wrongs do not make a right. Our society is very, very, sick. Social pathology runs rampant throughout society, regardless of race or class. Sometimes the circumstances are different, that's all. I feel your anger and rage. It is not unjustified. But ask yourself, if the victim had been white, and he had been behaving in the exact same manner, do you think the officers would have acted differently, if they felt their lives were in danger? I have to doubt that they would have. We would have had a dead white victim instead, and no one would have brought up racism or police brutality. Remember, one of the officers was black, so if the victim had been white, then racism would have been just as plausible as in this case, where the victim was black.

SargentMidTown
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SargentMidTown 05/06/09 - 12:50 pm
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We need more "good killings"

We need more "good killings" in Augusta to send a storng message to the criminal element. That killing was a good thing.

many666legion
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many666legion 05/06/09 - 12:50 pm
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Cogratulation! Deputy Ortiz

Cogratulation! Deputy Ortiz and Deputy Hodge was cleared by the Richmond County Grand Jury now transfer them to Oakland,California police department the home of the cop killers.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 05/06/09 - 12:51 pm
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Why is RACE the reason you

Why is RACE the reason you all are upset. There were no honkeys involved in the shooting. Looks like this scumbag getting shot saved the tax payer many dollars in future arrests, court costs, and jaild support. Good riddance and pass out more ammo to the cops on patrol in thses drug and crime infested areas.

EARL84
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EARL84 05/06/09 - 12:52 pm
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Basically, all of you idiots

Basically, all of you idiots crying foul play here:
cops==> BAD; drug dealer==> GOOD.
Yall are pathetic.

rufus
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rufus 05/06/09 - 12:56 pm
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Let's have a Justin Elmore

Let's have a Justin Elmore day so everyone in Cherry Tree can take a day off from work.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 05/06/09 - 01:09 pm
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kissofdeath, I had to laugh

kissofdeath, I had to laugh at your post. You are a complete idiot. I can assure you that the outcome would be EXACTLY the same but I am an expert shot and it would only take a couple of rounds instead of 20 for you. That would save the tax payer about $10 in ammo and society would be rid of another scumbag. Win-win. By the way, folks that off themselves are of no concern to me. Just more weak mined fools like you who take a cowards way out. At least Elmo died how he wanted to live...gangsta! gangsta! I do have blue eyes by the way but you left out the devil part...(this is too fun)

law
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law 05/06/09 - 01:31 pm
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I didn't think anyone had

I didn't think anyone had anyone jobs in Cherry Tree except deal drugs and get pregnant to use the gov't for money. Although you know they hate this gov't that pays for them to live off all the other hard working citizens. SERIOUSLY ON A REAL NOTE-FOR ALL THOSE AGAINST OUR LAW ENFORCEMENT GO ON DOWN AND APPLY SINCE YOUR SO MUCH SMARTER AND COULD DO A BETTER JOB. YOU WOULDN'T LAST ONE DAY!

FallingLeaves
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FallingLeaves 05/06/09 - 01:54 pm
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Yep, I wouldn't last one day.

Yep, I wouldn't last one day. I'm getting shot at enough while being a law-abiding citizen in the suburbs, anyway. I would hate to have to do police-work. I am so glad that these two officers have been cleared. I hate that Justin Elmore died, but he brought it on himself by his choices.

TheShep
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TheShep 05/06/09 - 01:55 pm
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Gosh there are so many

Gosh there are so many comments removed. Can't we all be adults and converse in a civilized way?

EARL84
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EARL84 05/06/09 - 02:00 pm
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Wow, who's running the Board

Wow, who's running the Board today? is that you justus? willy?

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