Grand jury won't charge deputies in suspect's fatal shooting

Police video shows the shooting of Justin Elmore in December 2008.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009 4:06 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010 12:20 AM
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MORE VIDEO: Residents of Cherry Tree Crossing react to today's grand jury decision

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Elmore

A Richmond County grand jury today found no reason to bring charges against two sheriff's deputies who fatally shot a suspect last December when he tried to run over one of them with his SUV at an Augusta housing complex.

Grand jurors, who heard testimony and reviewed police videotapes of the incident behind closed doors, decided the two deputies, Jose Rivera Ortiz and Michael Hodge, should not face charges, and brought a no-bill of indictment in the Dec. 14 shooting of Justin Elmore.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength said he was pleased with the decision and urged others to view the police dashboard-camera videotapes of the shooting before reacting to the results.

The sheriff said the film shows his deputies' lives were in danger the moment Mr. Elmore put the vehicle in drive.

“That was the threat,” he said.

He also confirmed his department had reaction teams ready to restore the peace should violence break out in the Cherry Tree neighborhood, as happened often in December.

“We hope people do sit back -- study the tapes -- before anything is done,” Sheriff Strength said.

He met today with local community leaders including longtime Paine College professor Mallory Millender, state Rep. Henry Howard and Barbara Gordon, publisher and editor of the Metro Courier newspaper.

The sheriff said deputies have been preparing for the past two months for any violent demonstrations in reaction to a grand jury decision.

This afternoon, numerous police cars, including a SWAT team van and Columbia County sheriff's vehicles, could be seen parked just not far from the Cherry Tree neighborhood.

In December the shooting of Mr. Elmore, 23, had provoked several days of unrest as hundreds in and around the public housing complex off 15th Street shouted, marched and even threw bottles in protest.

The Rev. Al Sharpton spoke at Mr. Elmore's funeral, urging calm. Afterward, however, many took to the streets, including members of the New Black Panther Party, who displayed guns and marched, while police looked on.

Because the case involved a police agency, it was turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which shared the results of its inquiry with District Attorney Ashley Wright. She showed that evidence today to grand jurors.

Although the grand jury presentations are not public, earlier police accounts said the deputies had been responding to a tip about a man with drugs and weapons in an SUV when they boxed in Mr. Elmore, using their patrol cars.

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.

A gunshot then fatally wounded Mr. Elmore. 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 systems.

RELATED STORY

- Elmore had history of arrests

Comments (151) Add comment
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JackBootedThug
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JackBootedThug 05/05/09 - 04:11 pm
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Board up your windows...

Board up your windows...

TheLaw7
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TheLaw7 05/05/09 - 04:13 pm
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Good job Ortiz and Hodge

Good job Ortiz and Hodge

Don KING
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Don KING 05/05/09 - 04:19 pm
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I fought the law and the law

I fought the law and the law won....

Riverman1
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Riverman1 05/05/09 - 04:21 pm
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If I were on the grand jury

If I were on the grand jury I’d ask if it was a side shot that killed Elmore as he drove by. I’d also ask about the deputy in another case who fired 5 shots into the car at the 20 year old driver with two innocent passengers who had disrespected his mother. What I’m getting at is we should contrast the Columbia Cty and Richmond Cty policies. Col. Cty policy instructs the officer not to place himself in a position where a car would be a threat. Plus, it says, never fire into a moving vehicle. Richmond Cty apparently takes a different view. Putting a bullet in someone over something is a big step in my mind.

UrbanMeyerHater
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UrbanMeyerHater 05/05/09 - 04:32 pm
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Riverman - Rich Co deputies

Riverman - Rich Co deputies are in a damn WAR ZONE! Yes, there is a difference in counties. Columbia county hoods appologize before they rob you. Richmond Co hoods just kill you. Thats the GD difference!

yak11
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yak11 05/05/09 - 04:38 pm
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Richmond County Sheriffs

Richmond County Sheriffs Office! Clearning the streets one target at a time!!!

SCGAL53
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SCGAL53 05/05/09 - 04:39 pm
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Great job, grand jury!

Great job, grand jury!

Riverman1
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Riverman1 05/05/09 - 04:41 pm
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Look, folks, I'm a white

Look, folks, I'm a white conservative Republican, but this thing has bothered me. What evidence was presented to the Grand Jury was determined by Ashley Wright, the DA. We all know her connection with a particular Richmond Cty. officer. A simple question..did the shot that killed Elmore come from the side window? Now what about the other case where the officer fired 5 shots into the car where the driver had disrespected his mother? The two passengers were completely innocent of any crime. Asinine.

mosovich
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mosovich 05/05/09 - 04:43 pm
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Here's what I think.. I

Here's what I think.. I think the media shouldn't even bother going over there, all this media attention does is feed the flames.. If the TV crews would stay away, I'd bet you anything, you'd have no riots or any problems.. The media will make this a circus event that we can all be proud of..

Erayzer
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Erayzer 05/05/09 - 04:49 pm
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Now did anyone think that was

Now did anyone think that was NOT going to be the ruling with the majority of the Jury that is certainly from the [filtered word] off angry southern white male party!

TheLaw7
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TheLaw7 05/05/09 - 04:52 pm
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look another race card

look another race card player.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 05/05/09 - 05:00 pm
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I mean the whole thing is so

I mean the whole thing is so Catch 22ish as to why an officer can shoot. A few months later we have an officer shooting 5 times into a car with 3 people in a driveway because his mother said he disrespected her. SNAFU number 22, you get a bullet if you don't tap dance. Again, a new policy similar to Columbia Cty's would prevent a lot of unneccessary killings.

lddist
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lddist 05/05/09 - 05:08 pm
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what does it matter if the

what does it matter if the shot came from the side window? Maybe the officer stepped to the side to avoid being hit, then fired. If he is trying to run over someone, I don't care where the shot comes from, shoot him.

mikeelliott
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mikeelliott 05/05/09 - 05:11 pm
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The system has spoken. The

The system has spoken. The system that has evolved into as fair a system as anywhere in the world. This is a story about someone crossing the line. This is a story about where anyone of us can find ourselves when we make incorrect choices. This is a story of the sadness and emptiness Mr. Elmore's family and friends feel. And, in my opinion, this marks the end of the story.

TheLaw7
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TheLaw7 05/05/09 - 05:14 pm
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another one bites the dust

another one bites the dust

Riverman1
82448
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Riverman1 05/05/09 - 05:14 pm
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4Shiz, you know he was going

4Shiz, you know he was going to run over someone else? Enough to kill him? As a well respected local journalist told me after I first brought up these questions, the media loses credibility when it doesn’t ask. We actually add to the possible violence because the minorities feel they will not be heard. So all the loud talking radio folks should try to present both sides. Speaking the truth prevents violence.

TakeAstand
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TakeAstand 05/05/09 - 05:17 pm
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Who cares if it was a side

Who cares if it was a side shot, if he was endangering another deputy's life then surrounding officers can shoot!! if some criminal was coming at your family member trying to run them over and you both had guns would you just not fire and say oh well mom has a gun let her stop him from running her over or would you try to stop them too??? And the other case, is exactly that..... another case!!!

TakeAstand
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TakeAstand 05/05/09 - 05:20 pm
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You dont know if he was going

You dont know if he was going to run someone over or not either, but basically your posts are open and shut if it did come from the side. Thats what we have investigations and jury's for, to make the best decision they can based on the evidence at hand, none of which you have!

TakeAstand
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TakeAstand 05/05/09 - 05:20 pm
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Sorry first post was late,

Sorry first post was late, had a phone call before I hit post lol

Riverman1
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Riverman1 05/05/09 - 05:27 pm
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TakeAstand said, "You dont

TakeAstand said, "You dont know if he was going to run someone over or not either, but basically your posts are open and shut if it did come from the side. Thats what we have investigations and jury's for, to make the best decision they can based on the evidence at hand, none of which you have!
Posted by TakeAstand on Tue May 5, 2009 5:20 PM "
My point is that if the officer, Ortiz, who said he was being threatened killed Elmore with a shot through the passenger window as he drove by, something is amiss, Agree? Remember the Grand Jury only had the evidence that Ashley Wright provided.

ITDoc
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ITDoc 05/05/09 - 05:29 pm
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When I've been pulled over

When I've been pulled over for DWB, I treated the officers with respect and answered their questions. I made no sudden movements and once satisfied I was committing no crime, I went on my way. I've not committed any crimes therefore I believe my odds of death by cop are very low. WHO you are, WHERE you are, and WHAT you've done will raise your odds of death by cop. Poor judgement was used by all parties in this case.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 05/05/09 - 05:36 pm
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The video with the officer

The video with the officer shooting in the side window is pertinent. Was the shot that actually killed Elmore the side shot? What did the medical report say?

Riverman1
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Riverman1 05/05/09 - 05:39 pm
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Ahhh, the whole thing is

Ahhh, the whole thing is total BS if you look at the video. The vehicle is actually past the officer when he fires in the side window. No wonder there were riots.

justus4
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justus4 05/05/09 - 05:39 pm
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No surprise here... this was
Unpublished

No surprise here... this was predicted in December. And here is how: Secret Grand Jury=no minorities; Findings Of Fact are secret=NEVER benefit minorities; dead man a minority=no justice @ local level (history provides proof, think Rodney King) Another example why elected minority officials are useless and not much has changed from the 1960's for minority Americans. Again, a complete atrocity, a dead man, and a corrupted legal system that associates this process with justice. What a pitiful disgrace for all involved.

Erayzer
4
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Erayzer 05/05/09 - 05:43 pm
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It took them almost 5 months

It took them almost 5 months to "doctor" this video. Should have made a post on You Tube. Someone on their could've done it in 4!

Riverman1
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Riverman1 05/05/09 - 05:45 pm
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Click on the above link if

Click on the above link if you haven't seen the police video. Geez.

Erayzer
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Erayzer 05/05/09 - 05:50 pm
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I'm sorry but it seemed to me

I'm sorry but it seemed to me his wheels where going left and the officer in front of the car was on the right. I didn't see him hit a police cruiser and where is the rest of the video after the vehicle came to a stop at the fence. Looks like a gun down to me, regardless of what his record was. He should've been arrested not murdered!

confederatelady319
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confederatelady319 05/05/09 - 05:53 pm
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jusyus4-you are just a

jusyus4-you are just a sad,sad man,how about the couple of white men that columbia county shot and killed in the last several years,you didn't see white folks breaking anf sitting fires and shooting at officers in the cover of darkness.why?

6Romans23
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6Romans23 05/05/09 - 05:57 pm
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He didnt give him the chance

He didnt give him the chance to be arrested!? or did you miss that part? I dont condone taking a life but who in their right mind would stick up for him? And yes, if working in a bank and a ski mask came in, panic button pushed. You put yourselves in the officers position, as soft as you seem to be you wouldnt last a week. I'm sure they didnt "shoot to kill", Maybe theres a lesson a small % will get from this. Maybe, just hopefully they will learn.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 05/05/09 - 06:00 pm
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6Romans, I don't know who you

6Romans, I don't know who you are talking to, but I bet I've fired many more rounds at "bad guys" than you have. This whole matter comes down to Richmond Cty setting a policy to avoid such instances....exactly as Columbia Cty has done.

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