Police instructor insists 'it was the only option'

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Law enforcement officers spend many hours in training before they can carry a gun, said a training expert who testified before the Richmond County grand jury this week.

How and when to use deadly force is drummed into the heads of recruits because if they do fire their weapons, it will likely be a decision made in a matter of seconds and they will be responsible for every bullet fired, said Al Williams.

Mr. Williams is an instructor for the certified police training program at Augusta Technical College. He has worked in and taught law enforcement for more than 15 years.

He said he firmly believes Richmond County sheriff's Deputies Jose Rivera Ortiz and Michael Hodge were justified in firing on Justin Elmore on Dec. 14 at the Cherry Tree Crossing public housing complex.

An officer has the legal right and a duty to eliminate or neutralize a threat, and an SUV is a 5,000-pound threat when it is advancing toward you, Mr. Williams said Wednesday, a day after a Richmond County grand jury cleared both deputies.

The reasonableness of the officers' actions should be judged through all of the facts surrounding what happened that afternoon, Mr. Williams said.

- There was a reliable tip that four men were in the vehicle with weapons and drugs.

- The window tint was so dark the officers couldn't see inside the vehicle.

- As soon as officers approached the SUV on foot, the driver started to move the SUV.

When the SUV accelerated toward Deputy Ortiz he would have no doubt Mr. Elmore was a danger to him and to anyone else in the immediate area, Mr. Williams said.

The shot or shots the deputy fired from the side of the SUV were justified because Mr. Elmore was still a threat to others, Mr. Williams said.

"It was the only option the officer had," Mr. Williams said.

The most dangerous duties officers have are pulling over vehicles, searching warehouses and responding to domestic violence calls, he said.

Deputy Ortiz's retrieval of an assault weapon from the trunk of his car after the SUV came to a stop was appropriate, Mr. Williams said. The officers had their weapons drawn on a vehicle they couldn't see inside, a vehicle they thought could contain four men with access to weapons, he said.

An officer has to stay one step ahead of a suspect and base the use of force on the resistance shown, he said.

"If we're 50-50, we're losing," Mr. Williams said.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.

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Comments (53) Add comment
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Asitisinaug
3
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Asitisinaug 05/07/09 - 01:40 am
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Richmond County sheriff's

Richmond County sheriff's Deputies Jose Rivera Ortiz and Michael Hodge performed well and followed all of their training procedures and unfortunately had to fire their weapons - the first time for either in their careers. These officers have served the community well and all reasonable thinking people of this community are thankful we have deputies such as these making these tough, split second decisions to save lives, including their own.

Brad Owens
4294
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Brad Owens 05/07/09 - 04:26 am
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Best article yet.

Best article yet.

pkervin
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pkervin 05/07/09 - 04:43 am
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Good job it's about time

Good job it's about time someone stood up for whats right. HHMMM

overburdened_taxpayer
117
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overburdened_taxpayer 05/07/09 - 06:16 am
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And Williams is black so

And Williams is black so let's see who talks about racism on this instructor's part.

andywarhol
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andywarhol 05/07/09 - 07:03 am
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Yeah, I also saw Mr. Williams

Yeah, I also saw Mr. Williams on the news last night. HE IS BLACK! I cannot wait to see what they say about him.

jackfruitpaper833
41
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jackfruitpaper833 05/07/09 - 07:10 am
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When it comes to shooting

When it comes to shooting people, why is SHOOTING to kill the only option? Are they not trained to WOUND to take them down without fatally killing them.

tdp
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tdp 05/07/09 - 07:18 am
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Fruit....If they only wound

Fruit....If they only wound the criminal, the criminal could still be a danger to them. Spend less time on criticizing the cops & more time on your language skills; "fatally killing" is redundant!

toomuch
28
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toomuch 05/07/09 - 07:22 am
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jackfruit, did you miss the

jackfruit, did you miss the part about the windows being tinted well beyond the legal limit of opacity? All the officers could do was try to shoot in the general area of the driver, because regardless of who was in the driver's seat, that person was the threat. I hope all the racism comments will finally be laid to rest, because the officers did not know who was in the SUV. The driver could have been anybody, of any race - all they knew is that it was someone who had no intention of stopping their vehicle at the behest of a law enforcement official. Once he crossed that line, he sealed his own fate.

trujustis
69
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trujustis 05/07/09 - 08:13 am
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Jackfruit, change your name

Jackfruit, change your name to fruitcake start taking your medication on time.

jackfruitpaper833
41
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jackfruitpaper833 05/07/09 - 08:19 am
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Hmmm tdp in my post I did not

Hmmm tdp in my post I did not criticize the cops LOL... where do you see that? My question is when cops shoot suspects/perps is it soley to kill them all the time? mind you I do know in most cases it's warranted, but in some if the option is there to bring a suspect/perp DOWN without killing them shouldn't they take it?

Lippy
0
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Lippy 05/07/09 - 08:27 am
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jackfruit, if a suspect is

jackfruit, if a suspect is standing outside of a vehicle in a clear space where the officers can see what he/she has as a weapon, yes they can choose to shoot to wound. However, in this instance - he was in a dark SUV with very black tinted windows - the officers had no idea who was driving, let alone who else was in the vehicle, or what weapons they had with them. At that point, they shoot to stop the vehicle, they didn't necessarily shoot to kill - it just so happened Elmore died as a result of being shot.

DEVGRU
0
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DEVGRU 05/07/09 - 08:33 am
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Shooting to wound is the same

Shooting to wound is the same thing as waiting to be killed.

jackfruitpaper833
41
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jackfruitpaper833 05/07/09 - 08:33 am
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Yeah I understand that I'm

Yeah I understand that I'm saying in GENERAL. If I was a cop I for sure would have done what these two did.

Brad Owens
4294
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Brad Owens 05/07/09 - 08:47 am
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Had Elmo stopped, got out of

Had Elmo stopped, got out of the car, and surrendered he would not be dead.

AugustaVoter
2
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AugustaVoter 05/07/09 - 08:51 am
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Jack, officers are trained to

Jack, officers are trained to stop the threat. That means keep shooting until the threat of serious injury or death to yourself or others has stopped. When Elmore started moving his stopped car toward officers and down a sidewalk he was still a threat.

yak11
0
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yak11 05/07/09 - 08:52 am
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Jackofruit..under the

Jackofruit..under the pressure of having to use lethal force the best training is "center of mass". Yeah sure TV police can shoot hands, and wound legs. The truth is that when the adrenaline is running you want a good sure stop.
Additionally (and something they probably didn't teach in girl's school) bullets tend to operate pretty much within the laws of physics. So you make this projectile move there has to be substantial force to stop it. If you shoot a leg and miss that bullet has to go somewhere.

Finally the croaked made a decision, he could have easily opened his windows and surrendered to a search....After he decided to follow his normal actions he earned the right to be WORM DIRT.

jackfruitpaper833
41
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jackfruitpaper833 05/07/09 - 08:54 am
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I'm not talking about Elmore

I'm not talking about Elmore (he's at fault IMO) for not obeying the officers and surrendering, I'm talking in GENERAL across the US.

TechLover
15
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TechLover 05/07/09 - 08:55 am
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They really need to release

They really need to release the portion of the tape that shows him trying to run down the officers. The portion they showed on the news showed him backing up and driving around an officer, not at him.

AugustaVoter
2
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AugustaVoter 05/07/09 - 08:57 am
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As an officer, The only

As an officer, The only problem I have with this situation is the fact that Ortiz should not have been in the position he was in, in the first place. Officers are trained to never walk between your patrol car and a suspect vehicle. On a traffic stop or any other time. But since he did, what followed is exactly what I would have done. Better to be heard by 24 than carried by 6. The other problem I have with this is that Deputy Ortiz conducted a roadblock on the SUV. Which is against RCSO policy. Other officers have lost their jobs at RCSO for illegal roadblocks. I think he should be punished for that part.

convertedsoutherner
2
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convertedsoutherner 05/07/09 - 09:16 am
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tech... Keep searching and

tech... Keep searching and hoping that you will find something that the police did wrong. It shouldn't have even gotten to the backing up and driving around the officer. He should have stopped his vehilcle at the request of the officers. Keep looking and you might find some flaw that would have given this career criminal (that wasn't suppose to be in the area) an excuse to get away and maybe kill someone else.

TechLover
15
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TechLover 05/07/09 - 09:34 am
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coverted: All I said was that

coverted: All I said was that they claimed he was trying to run them over and that the tape I've seen so far shows him trying to drive around them, not that he was innocent.

Riverman1
82451
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Riverman1 05/07/09 - 10:49 am
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It is interesting that the

It is interesting that the initial statements that he had rammed the police car and tried to run over the officer have all pretty much been discounted after we saw the video and see Ortiz shooting in the side window as Elmore drives by up on the sidewalk and Ortiz stands in the road. The shooting is now being justified for other reasons it appears.

butterflygina
157
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butterflygina 05/07/09 - 10:49 am
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I'm glad they got the

I'm glad they got the expert's opinion.

americafirst
965
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americafirst 05/07/09 - 11:31 am
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Even if (which I don't

Even if (which I don't believe is the case), the officer should not have gotten between the vehicles, it doesn't change a thing. He doesn't forgeit his right to defend himself and he is not relieved of his duty to stop a dangerous fleeing felon from escaping to possibly harm others.

overburdened_taxpayer
117
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overburdened_taxpayer 05/07/09 - 11:51 am
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jackfruit - they are taught

jackfruit - they are taught to eliminate the threat. Not minimize the threat but to eliminate it.

MeinAugusta2
39
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MeinAugusta2 05/07/09 - 12:13 pm
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Thank you, Mr. Williams.

Thank you, Mr. Williams. This is a great story! God Bless You!

tonyt15street
0
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tonyt15street 05/07/09 - 12:24 pm
0
0
there you go, go find one of

there you go, go find one of them to speak against them . that works 90 percent of the time. great stradegy, very well planned as this whole debacle was from the black leaders telling the communities not to have peaceful marches to the da's had washing grand jury. smoke screens and trick mirrors.

justus4
99
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justus4 05/07/09 - 01:26 pm
0
0
Lies, Lies, Lies, is obvious
Unpublished

Lies, Lies, Lies, is obvious throughout this article and obvious throughout this so-called "investigation" and PLEASE stop bringing some Clearance Thomas-type minority individual to co-sign for this obvious illegal shooting. It's not a credible defense to such obvious violations of Constitutional principles. And then, to credit a child as a credible witness is outrageous and is borderline child abuse. Where was the child's statement taken? And was the parents present and gave consent? Obvious questions that deserve answers, but most important, who was on that Grand Jury? The history tell "us" that minorities were excluded, predetermined outcome adopted, and the police union smiling & plotting throughout. Again, an abominable degree of dishonesty from all citizens involved and an obvious breach of trust to the minority community.

jboy
0
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jboy 05/07/09 - 01:47 pm
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Good riddance to bad rubbish,

Good riddance to bad rubbish, once again Justus spouts nonsense.

Georgiais1
0
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Georgiais1 05/07/09 - 01:49 pm
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Techis2nd...He was trying to

Techis2nd...He was trying to get around the patrol car that was in front of him. It just so happen there was a cop standing there with a pistol that told him to get out of the suv. End of story. As it should have been.

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