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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olmarine
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olmarine 05/07/09 - 11:49 am
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Tony15, you seem to be trying

Tony15, you seem to be trying to say Elmore was not a dirtbag, just look at other thugs. Well, a scumbag is a scumbag no matter the race.
Elmore chose his own end,more like him should.

Ode to Augusta
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Ode to Augusta 05/07/09 - 12:33 pm
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tony15street America is STILL

tony15street America is STILL a free country for businesses to sell whatever they like as long as it isn't banned. If those convenience stores and liquor stores want to sell bags of poo that is their right. It doesn't mean you have to buy. You just make it sound like black people are dumb as rocks and as gullible as sheep.

mr.handsom
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mr.handsom 05/07/09 - 01:21 pm
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This goes for Mr. Brad Owens

This goes for Mr. Brad Owens you sound like a racist to me. The Cop did not have to shoot that many times at the victim.That was stupid. Think about that being your son driving the SUV. I am sure they knew where he lived and could have got him at some point. This was not in self defense. You see clearly he drove on the grass dodging the officer that continued to shoot. You have no proof of him being all the bad things you say. Your comments are racially motivated. I support the family and mother of this tragedy.

tonyt15street
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tonyt15street 05/07/09 - 01:35 pm
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Ode to Augusta , My question

Ode to Augusta , My question is are these business men that sell our people death in the form of cigarrettes and alcohol to be considered as scum to? There is no gray area, legal or illegal they sell death. Are the companies that make and the people that work for them scum to? They all sell death as you say Mr. Elmore did. And I don't use any of them and don't condon the sell or use of them. Are they scum or were you just refering to Black Kids in the Hoods. Are you talking about the business man that make sure it hits the streets and then there are some dirty cops that help and turn the other way as to get their profit so they can live in the big houses in the nice neighborhoods. As you know these kids are the bottom men on the totem pole. Are you the scum does not stay in your neighborhood or in your house.

olmarine
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olmarine 05/07/09 - 01:58 pm
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Tony, is all you do is

Tony, is all you do is whine?? Tobacco companies sell legal "drugs"as well as what brewers sell. Get it here, the operative word is legal.
Elmore seems to have never done anything legal. He was a drain on his people, neighborhood,and society in general. Scum.
I can only think that his family is much better off without him, his out of wedlock litter is better off without him, society is the winner here.

tonyt15street
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tonyt15street 05/07/09 - 02:18 pm
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just because you make

just because you make something legal so you can make money that makes it right, okay. selling death is selling death. wrong is wrong. murder is murder no matter whether man says its okay or not. double standards. caught with crack cocaine life in prison, however caught with powder cocaine a vacation at a resort of your choice. who sells and uses which, double standard. why do i always read about black kids getting staturtory rape charges when white parents know and allow their underage kids to date overaged kids. then you throw the book at the black kids.

Asitisinaug
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Asitisinaug 05/07/09 - 03:19 pm
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Tony15street, to answer you

Tony15street, to answer you question, yes, I think that whites that sell drugs, use pipe bombs or hurt individuals, etc. are thugs, criminals, violent criminals, or whatever other label you wish to put on it. Frankly, I NEVER saw anyone standing up for any of those deviants, including their own parents in most cases. There are lunatics in all races. Bottom line, those who sell drugs, those who commit violent acts against others, those who continue to have no regard for the law or others lives, etc. and are non-productive members of society for whatever reason, deserve nothing except jail or death depending on their actions. They live in America and have been given more opportunities for an education, freedom and in most cases multiple chances in jail if necessary so they make up their own minds and most law abiding tax paying citizens could care less what color their skin is. I do find it amusing that when the criminal is of any race other than black (Asian, Mexican, Hispanic, white, whatever) there is little discussion about in and most are happy that the police or courts do their job. Why anyone would stand up for a thug of any color or race is beyond me and most citizens.

olmarine
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olmarine 05/07/09 - 05:19 pm
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Tony, this is going to be

Tony, this is going to be very hard for you to grasp but here goes....in most cases, the percentage is very high, if something is LEGAL it is RIGHT.
I doubt if many people would care if Elmo was from Mars, he was a worthless piece of scum who took advantage of his own race. Did he care for the children he fathered? Was he proud that he taught his own brother the thug lifestyle? He sold drugs (this is where the legal thing comes in,remember that lesson?) in his own community. He was a drag on all those he came into contact with,it was not a question that he got killed it was a question as to who and when he was going to meet his end.

Alpine_star
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Alpine_star 05/07/09 - 05:52 pm
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I guess Augusta Chronicle

I guess Augusta Chronicle just feels they need to keep deleting my comments.....what happened to free speech.. DELETE THIS COMMENT AND I DELETE MY SUBSCRIPTION!!! ha ha

anyways, like i said in my last comment that got deleted i think the richmond county police did a pathetic job and i think Ortiz is an outright idiot for what he did. Let me also state that the grand jury must have been a bunch of retards bc the video clearly shows elmore trying to avoid hitting Ortiz. Ortiz is the one who didn't use his head and went and stood in front of a car. (ha ha ha)

GRAND JURY WHAT ARE YOU THINKING LETTING A MAN GET AWAY WITH SOMETHING LIKE THIS.....HOW PATHETIC!!!

AFTER SEEING THIS MY OPINION OF RICHMOND COUNTY IS THAT THEY SHOULD HIDE THESE VIDEOS AND NOT LET NO ONE ELSE SEE THEM.

ORTIZ WILL HAVE TO ANSWER FOR WHAT HE DID ONE DAY...LEAVE IT TO GOD!

For the family im very sorry for your loss and I hope you get through all of this but dont stop here keep trying to push a case against this cop.

White male from columbia county with a bad attitude...if you disagree with what i say....Come get some!!!

olmarine
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olmarine 05/07/09 - 09:05 pm
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Alpine.....you say leave it

Alpine.....you say leave it to god,do you think maybe god had a hand in it and was happy that a policeman was available to fire the shot ??
I think it was god getting rid of one of his children who went bad.

olmarine
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olmarine 05/07/09 - 09:08 pm
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By the way Alpine, I disagree

By the way Alpine, I disagree with you. Now, get some what ??

richie24
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richie24 05/10/09 - 12:21 am
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A young man drives to Cherry

A young man drives to Cherry Tree to see some friends, He is now leaving. A cop has passes him and turns around as another officer pulls up in front of him and stops. He waits for a second trying to see what is up. He now attempts to back up not knowing the cop wants him. They have yet to wave him down just have lights on which means there is a problem in that neighborhood. He does not think that this officer wants him, so he backs up bumping into another officer that he did not see pull up behind him in the mirror, started he quickly turns while trying to pull up. However,the officer runs and positions himself in front of the vehicle as he turns he sees an officer pointing a gun at him and panics, mashing the gas to avoid the cop and the shots. Shots are fired as he jumps the curve, he passes the officer and the officer continues shooting striking him in the head as he passes. His car rolls to a stop, they break the window and pull him out on the ground, can you see him, can you see him ,now picture he is white ,he’s a 23 year old white male. Can you see him, bloody brains hanging out, dead body? Can you see him? He is white.

richie24
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richie24 05/10/09 - 12:26 am
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A young man drives to Cherry

A young man drives to Cherry Tree to see some friends, He is now leaving. A cop has passes him and turns around as another officer pulls up in front of him and stops. He waits for a second trying to see what is up. He now attempts to back up not knowing the cop wants him. They have yet to wave him down just have lights on which means there is a problem in that neighborhood. He does not think that this officer wants him, so he backs up bumping into another officer that he did not see pull up behind him in the mirror, started he quickly turns while trying to pull up. However,the officer runs and positions himself in front of the vehicle as he turns he sees an officer pointing a gun at him and panics, mashing the gas to avoid the cop and the shots. Shots are fired as he jumps the curve, he passes the officer and the officer continues shooting striking him in the head as he passes. His car rolls to a stop, they break the window and pull him out on the ground, his bloody brain hanging out dead body, can you see him, can you see him ,now picture he is white ,he’s a 23 year old white male. Can you see him, bloody brains hanging out, dead body? Can you see him? He is white.

richie24
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richie24 05/11/09 - 10:18 pm
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These are the problems I have

These are the problems I have with this whole incident. 1st off, Ortiz nor Hodges does not approach this car as if there was a serious threat here. They keep saying that there were four men with guns and drugs in the car, is this how you approach a car that has four men with guns and drugs that you fear as a threat. That discredits that theory that they gave as why they fire into a car that they could not see into recklessly. 2nd thing that bothers is the fact that when the suspect attempts a get away, Ortiz made up his mind when he darted in the path of the car with his gun raised and ready to fire that this driver would stop or be killed on the spot. This was indeed created by Ortiz. I don’t feel that Hodges would have fired his weapon if Ortiz would not have placed himself in danger of being hit and had not fired at the driver. 3rd problem is that I also notice that the driver has turned far left to avoid Ortiz and as he passes Ortiz, Ortiz only turns sideways, he never moves out of the path of the SUV. However, he continues to fire kill shots at the driver of the vehicle as it passes on the side of him.

richie24
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richie24 05/11/09 - 10:19 pm
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He has no regard for anyone

He has no regard for anyone in that neighborhood or capturing the suspect. Shots entered some of the apartments nearly striking the residents in which two were little kids. Elmore races on the sidewalk pass a little girl, then an officer of the law races past the little girl on the sidewalk just as fast as the Elmore guy. 4th disturbing thing that catches my attention is the language use with the people of this neighborhood. I know for a fact they would talk to the residents in my neighborhood at no point. This shows a total disrespect of the people in the neighborhood. I can tell this is a normal occurrence. If they talked to my neighbors or their kids like that, they would be looking for a new occupation. 5th if enough damage has not been done, Ortiz goes into the trunk and comes out with an assault riffle. Now let me mention the police dash cam tapes that now are abracadabra. Then you throw us some tapes with no dates, times or counters and say take this and sit down. To top that off you sneak in a predetermined Grand Jury Hearing, with no evidence offered against the officers in question.

FACTFINDER1
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FACTFINDER1 05/12/09 - 09:48 pm
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Is it me or does this

Is it me or does this reporter Sandy Hodson write one negative story after another slamming Elmore and his family. She continues to slam this man and his family. I think she is the reporter that works directly with the Courts and the Sheriff Department for the Chronicle. That explains it; it’s not what you know, but who you can get to put out information that has nothing to do with what happened in Cherry Tree Crossing on December 14, 2008. She provides more and more of more useless information to help negatively shape the publics mind toward the Young Man and his Family; and keep their minds as far away as possible from the fact that his Due Process was denied as well as his Civil Rights. God sees all and knows all. He even sees what we do in the dark.

richie24
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richie24 05/12/09 - 11:58 pm
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I noticed that to, however;

I noticed that to, however; there is a reporter from News 12 that does it to. She did the who was Justin Elmore Story and the Tinted Window Story after they showed the mothers letter. Look at the picture that they use for this story; they want us to remember the officer in front of the SUV. Good try, but we saw the officer position himself in front of the SUV when it backs up. I have bad vibes about this tape. It took them that long to release this. This does look doctored as we know how they put movies together for us to view. I think Hodson did the story on Elmore’s brother being in court.

FACTFINDER1
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FACTFINDER1 05/14/09 - 12:03 am
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I found this to be

I found this to be interesting that there were cases of video tapes being doctored. A producer-reporter was fired for altering a video in such a way as to put false and potentially inflammatory words into the mouth of Fox News anchor? The video was doctored by who a person who covered technology issues and produced promotional videos for Baltimore's NBC affiliate. There was the case of New York law enforcement caught doctoring video of an arrest. The charges were dropped after the edited video was exposed.

FACTFINDER1
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FACTFINDER1 05/14/09 - 12:03 am
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Then there was the case where

Then there was the case where a videotape shown to grand jurors and witnesses in preparation for their grand jury testimony that was speed up. The defendant’s lawyers hired a forensic video analyst, to review the tape. He determined that the tape that was shown to grand jurors was 208 percent faster than the actual events. There was another one where the supervisor screened this video feed, and made the conscious decision to preserve only four segments of approximately 15 minutes each – according to the defense attorneys who received it upon discovery release,” our intelligence source confided. It went on to say that the deliberate editing of the video showed the defendants in the worst possible light

hana57
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hana57 05/20/09 - 06:27 pm
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what does "entitlement" have

what does "entitlement" have to do with murder? some of you people have no common sense. maybe i need to watch ALL of the videos; the shots were fired off camera, i didn't see anyone in dnger of being run down. on another note; Africans were snatched from our land, jammed into coffins the europeans labled boats, and were stripiped of every form of human dignity imagnable. slavery - the only thing "americans" are proud of, should afford some form of entitlement. African descendents continue to experience racist hiring, firing, living. europeans used Jesus and the Bible to strike fear and submission into a race of people, and continue to do so today. Someone was yelling, "...don't shoot!" was it the dead guy?

hana57
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hana57 05/20/09 - 06:36 pm
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Yes, sandy wrote the article

Yes, sandy wrote the article as all of them write articles when it comes to dead non-europeans. her paycheck depends on slanted stories. she should consider fiction. On another note - what is going on with our people? marching does not work - i wish it would stop. demonstrating isn't working - they have no respect for the organizers of such activiites. why not first, become educated regarding our plight in this country. read REAL history books about how we got where we are. support OUR businesses. i read recently of an initiative to support only minority-owned businesses, corrdinated by several familites. a young brother walked into a high-priced european establishment on michigan ave in chicago, two summers ago, and was arrested because he was wearing one of their shirts. the ignorant whiteboy ASSUMED he had stolen it, because after all, how can a Negro afford that shirt! i am amazed that my folks continue to frequent that establishment. we do not stick together which is why the europeans do what they want, when they want. the fact that the policemen in this case are minorities, means nothing; they're collecing a check and probably a bonus for ridding the streets of one more.

hana57
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hana57 05/20/09 - 06:37 pm
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not!

not!

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