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  Special
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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

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ITDoc
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ITDoc 05/05/09 - 07:56 pm
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Bobby, great question. I

Bobby, great question. I drive a vehicle often stereotyped as a "thugmobile". I have max legal tint, large chrome rims, and it's virtually impossible to see into it at night. My upbringing was dominated by "black" culture and I still enjoy music and fashion that is again, stereotyped as "black". ALL of my oldest friends are minorities, and most of my new friends here are also. I don't care what color a person is, I judge by their intelligence. I do discriminate against stupid people of all colors. I am not a trained law enforcement officer, so I do not condemn those who are. I have never depended upon illegal activities to support my family, so I do not condemn those who do. I CHOOSE to live as I do and I ACCEPT the results of that choice.

radman1
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radman1 05/05/09 - 08:02 pm
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There was only one bad

There was only one bad decision made that night. When Mr. Elmore chose to flee the scene he decided his own fate. The deputies responded appropriately to the threat that was presented to them. The deputies made a good choice. It was a righteous shooting.

In case anyone hasn't been paying attention, there haven't ben anymore attempts to run down a RCSO deputy since this happened. Maybe a lesson was learned.

Riverman, it doesn't matter whether the fatal shot was from the front or the side. He was a fleeing felon that had just attempted to inflict serious bodily injury on a deputy. The grand jury is always only shown the evidence that the DA wants them to see. The question to the grand jury is whether there is enough evidence to indict them and proceed to a trial, not whether the grand jury believes them to be guilty or innocent. This presentment was handled just like all the rest. And I am sorry that Ashley Wright turned you down when you asked her out on a date, get over it. Part of being an adult is learning to accept rejection from women.

natashaleigh
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natashaleigh 05/05/09 - 08:04 pm
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what the hell does his

what the hell does his criminal history have to do with him loosing his life? looking at that camera dosent look like he was aiming to run anyone over! something else could have been done instead of killing the damn boy. and no one said anything about how the so called police put everyone elses life in danger. did you see the person almost get hit by the police car. this case is so stpupid but no one will ever realize that. people are out here killing people and babies and walk away . all this man did was put his car in reverse and have a "criminal history"

mommy22girls
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mommy22girls 05/05/09 - 08:05 pm
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I see where he backed into

I see where he backed into the police car, far as running over the officer, it does not look like that was the case, however, with that said the officers did their job the way they felt it was needed to be done. I am not the one standing in that position therefore can not determine what decision I would have made at that time. I hate that someone lost their life and would have preferred for him to pay for his crimes. I also know that most, not all, but most of Cherry Tree are up to no good. I used to go in there at night to take a co-worker home and drug deals fully in the open going on, the last night I was in there I had a gun pulled on me for my money, ran over the guys toe :), They need to close that housing project!

natashaleigh
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natashaleigh 05/05/09 - 08:08 pm
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and how can you dumb people

and how can you dumb people sit here and say good job? what if that had been your child with a "criminal history" would you have wanted the police to do a "good job"? i didnt damn think so. no matter what a person does he/she doesnt deserve to die at least not that way. now if he had killed someone then maybe we can reconsider, but he didnt, so he shouldnt be dead. thats okay cause each and every last one ogf yall will loose someone in a way you feel was un called for and then lets see who will be bragging then.

storiesihaveread
417
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storiesihaveread 05/05/09 - 08:19 pm
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oh gezzz AC police give me a

oh gezzz AC police give me a break on why my comment was removed. You know who I am email me and tell me what i said was wrong. Just a fact is all I stated.

genbartow
2
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genbartow 05/05/09 - 08:33 pm
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Those damn SUV's

Those damn SUV's

ITDoc
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ITDoc 05/05/09 - 08:38 pm
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Class is determined not by

Class is determined not by skin color but by achievement, character, and respect. This should give us hope, but it is drowned out by the dissention perpetuated by those who would divide us.

Asitisinaug
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Asitisinaug 05/05/09 - 08:38 pm
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Riverman1, you quote CC

Riverman1, you quote CC policy as many quote the bible, to your own satisfaction. CC policy never prevents an officer from shooting at anyone/anything, including a vehicle in self defense. As for "not putting yourself in front of a vehicle to stop it", the deputy had to exit his partol car (or sit their waiting to get shot by a reported armed suspect) and upon exiting his car was in front of the vehicle that then rammed a patrol car and came forward towards him. CC or RC we would hope for the same actions and resutls otherwise we would have a dead CC deputy and a violent repeat offender would have gotten away and/or possibly killed others. It is easy to w/o law enforcement training to sit, watch and judge but placed in that situation, the officers responded exactly as they were trained to do. Elmore made the decisions, not the officers. You and others like you would blame the officers either way - if they jumped out of the way, didn't get him stoped and he killed a family while continuing to flee, you would still say it was the fault of the police because they failed to stop him. Put fault exactly where it belongs, on the violent criminal and support our fine deputies.

mommy22girls
0
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mommy22girls 05/05/09 - 08:39 pm
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Why did they remove

Why did they remove natashaleigh's comment, she did not say anything offensive. Hmm...oh well.

mommy22girls
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mommy22girls 05/05/09 - 08:40 pm
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Well said ITDoc! How old are

Well said ITDoc! How old are you ITDoc if you do not mind me asking.

Asitisinaug
7
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Asitisinaug 05/05/09 - 08:45 pm
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And for anyone that brings up

And for anyone that brings up race....justify your silly statement please when the officers present were black or hispanic and the two involved were black and hispanic. Stupidity and ignorance never ceases to amaze me. This has NOTHING to do with race. The officers REACTED to Elmores ACTIONS, nothing more, nothing less. He was arrested many other times in RC without being shot. Since many don't wish to place the blame where it belongs, on the violent criminal, then blame the bleeding heart liberals that help to keep these violent criminals out of jail. Had he been in jail where he belonged for his past actions, he would not have been given the opportunity to try and kill one of our peace officers. These officers have not only been cleared but informed the acted exactly according to their training by the RCSO and the GBI and were cleared by a grand jury of ordinary citizens...they how deserve our support for their actions.

ITDoc
1
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ITDoc 05/05/09 - 08:47 pm
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Mommy22: I am so old, I

Mommy22: I am so old, I changed God's diaper.

TheLaw7
0
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TheLaw7 05/05/09 - 08:54 pm
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Haha at Augusta Chronicle why

Haha at Augusta Chronicle why remove my comments becuase you liberals know I am right stupid people

tonyt15street
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tonyt15street 05/05/09 - 08:55 pm
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The officer in front say he

The officer in front say he is backing up, takes his gun out and walks in front of the truck (police training). I did not see him ram cars like Srenght told us he did. If you put your finger on the officer in the fronts head who did the shooting, you would notice that he never moved from his stance he only turned sideways. Where are the other two tapes that would show this, Oh they broke them, I forgot. Why did they not allow the witness to testify to the grand jury, only the cops. The witness were not called in for this. Very smart Ashley Wright, wash your hands and put it in the Grand Jury HANDS. tHEY ONLY FORMED JUDGEMENT MONTHS AGO WATCHING THE NEWS TELL US HE WS A KILLER AND DESERVED TO BE GUNNED DOWN IN THE STREET. GOD KNOWS ALL AND SEES ALL. I just witness a cold blooded murder. Oh the car was not stolen and he weed in the car. No GUNS. SHAME ON ALL YOU PEOPLE THAT APPROVE OF WHAT WE JUST WITNESSED.

melissa1127
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melissa1127 05/05/09 - 09:02 pm
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The view is limited, but from

The view is limited, but from what I could see...he was trying to go around the officer. He swerved deep left. I didn't get the impression he tried to run him over, but I wasn't there either. I am white..and I am NOT prejudice by any means nor do I favor one race over another..which seems that most people that post on here are concerned about most. Doesn't matter your skin color..if you did wrong..you did wrong.

tonyt15street
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tonyt15street 05/05/09 - 09:05 pm
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We know the only way the

We know the only way the officers will get charged is if thre is vedio tapes put out before they can get to them. And then they dress that up. And Parents please keep your kids off this board that continue to make kiddy non-sensitive remarks.

infamous30909
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infamous30909 05/05/09 - 09:07 pm
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Ok. I live just outside

Ok. I live just outside Sunset(Cherry Tree)..and I may be biased but it looks like he tried to GO AROUND the officer. I DID NOT see this cat aim his truck @ that officer! That was some bull[filtered word]! WHY didn't they just shoot out his tires man?! Those cops aimed head-high the whole time. That grand jury needs to be indicted themselves. It is just so sad...and it seems there is nothing anyone can do about it.

tonyt15street
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tonyt15street 05/05/09 - 09:15 pm
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PUT YOUR FINGER ON THE

PUT YOUR FINGER ON THE OFFICER HEAD AS THE CAR BEGINS TO COME FORWARD AND YOU WILL NOTICE THAT THE CAR WENT SO FAR LEFT THAT HE ONLY TURNED SIDEWAYS. NO CARS RAMMED. NO GUNS FOUND IN CAR. CAR NOT STOLEN. WOW! Unreal! Only in the United States of America could all this take place and people approve because of a mans skin color and social economic status. How can theGrand Jury and all involved in this farce sleep. Irag has nothing on America.

tonyt15street
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tonyt15street 05/05/09 - 09:18 pm
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Sandy Hodson , News 12 you

Sandy Hodson , News 12 you get your applause for painting a picture of a terrorist out Mr. Elmore and Family.

jaschild
13
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jaschild 05/05/09 - 09:21 pm
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tonyt15street - did you

tonyt15street - did you happen to notice the color of the officers?!?! point being, why didn't they just abide by the law and stop...no color. the threat was there; they challenged the bulllet and bit it.

comforter1975
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comforter1975 05/05/09 - 09:25 pm
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Looks to me that he wasn't

Looks to me that he wasn't trying to run em over. But I wasn't there to see it in person.

georgepickett_
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georgepickett_ 05/05/09 - 09:30 pm
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Damn good job rcsd

Damn good job rcsd

georgepickett_
0
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georgepickett_ 05/05/09 - 09:31 pm
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Need to bust a few more caps

Need to bust a few more caps in those govt, drug infested projects!

bone
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bone 05/05/09 - 09:41 pm
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guns were found in the car,

guns were found in the car, tony. hooray for justice in her many robes (including the one where she swoops down and snatches another thug from the streets).

floatie
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floatie 05/05/09 - 09:41 pm
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I'm laughing....

I'm laughing....

Asitisinaug
7
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Asitisinaug 05/05/09 - 09:44 pm
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tonyt15street - The only

tonyt15street - The only thing you are right on so far is that this could only happen in America. Had this been any other country, Elmore would have been in jail for the rest of his life for past criminal actions or put to death and therefore would not have been allowed an opportunity to put others life's at risk, continue to sell drugs, or live off of the government checks without a job. Only in America would the citizens who are living in government housing, receiving food stamps, tax credits, etc. be allowed to demonstrate against the police for doing their sworn job and be allowed to remain in government housing, other than a jail. Elmore made his decision to end his own life when he failed to stop, backed up and then put the vehicle in drive towards officers. He would be alive today had he simply followed the law and stoped his vehicle - his choice, his decision, his actions and his consequences. Anyone who can support such criminal behavior and instead displace the blame to deputies trying to effectively do their job is a blight on our society. Elmore had plenty of opportunities to simply STOP but instead, the deputies had to do it for him. Thank God they did!!

georgepickett_
0
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georgepickett_ 05/05/09 - 09:44 pm
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40C bullet 76 cents----one

40C bullet 76 cents----one ignorant, gangsta, wanna off the streets----priceless!

georgepickett_
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georgepickett_ 05/05/09 - 09:47 pm
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elmo--dreads, extensive

elmo--dreads, extensive criminal history, no job, fairly new SUV, even you ignorant shiets should be able to figure that one out, sheesh!

TheLaw7
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TheLaw7 05/05/09 - 09:59 pm
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Im down with kicking

Im down with kicking everybody out of the projects and making them go get a real job oh wait they rely on Obama to make the house payment HAHAHAHAHAHA freaking liberal scum

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