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
Special
Elmore
Sandy Hodson
Database Reporter
E-mail | 706-823-3226

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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Asitisinaug
4
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Asitisinaug 05/05/09 - 11:54 pm
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Why would anyone argue with

Why would anyone argue with Tonyt15street, he must be right and know what he is talking about. Tony is right, the black deputy is wrong. Tony is right, the latino police officer is wrong. Tony is right, the other black police officer witnesses are wrong. Tony is right, the Sheriff is wrong. Tony is right, Internal Affairs is corrupt and wrong. Tony is right, the GBI with all of their training, knowledge and info is wrong. Tony is right, even thought he FBI also reviewd these tapes for civil rights violations, they are wrong. Tony is right, not the men and women of various races to include white, black and asian who served on the grand jury, they are all wrong. Tony must be right because the DA has to be wrong and just sticks up for the police. Tony must be right because EVERYONE with the information about this incident after a complete and very intense investigation by multiple agencies and departments couldn't possibly be correct in their findings. Hmmm....mabye Tony is just more intrested in spreading rumor, gosip, opinions and half truths to support a drug dealing thug then listening to the truth from many individuals from all levels and agencies and a jury.

tonyt15street
0
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tonyt15street 05/05/09 - 11:57 pm
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augustagal you are fictional,

augustagal you are fictional, because i know people in that neighborhood and they all thought he was a pretty decent guy just caught up in the system. they say he was not violent or a trouble maker. get real. this kids get a bad shake from the beginning. they are born into a situation that is tough to get out of as i know first hand. see it was a sruggle, and anybody tells you that it was easy getting out is a liar. most are born into single parent homes and face negative people like yourselves that present even more obstacles. the police treat them worst than dogs, as they did with elmore they give them loitering charges and disorderly conduct charges because they sit in their neighborhoods minding their business, which is not drugs as many of you think. t remember days the cops would come by when i was younger and talk to us like trash when were just sitting out talking. i grew up not trusting the police because of their treatment of young guys minding their business. they don't take the kids on washington road down on those charges when they sit in hooters parking lot drinking beer and smoking weed. double standards.

spdermn78
4
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spdermn78 05/05/09 - 11:59 pm
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Pleesse shut up tony15street.

Pleesse shut up tony15street. Listen to how you sound... Let him go? Thats your problem you think its alright for dope dealers to go free because selling dope is a non violent crime. That is the stupidest thing I ever heard. Try telling that to the little kids whos mother and father are cracked out because of Elmores dope. And how the hell do you know he isnt in our neighborhood. He is clearly capable of driving.. He is scum of the earth and for you trying to put hard working, law abiding family and tax payer citizens in the same boat as this drug dealing [filtered word] makes me think that you were probaly his supplier or maybe he was your weed connection. Shut up you CLOWN!!

spdermn78
4
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spdermn78 05/06/09 - 12:03 am
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And for the record

And for the record tony15street you are the only fictious person on this post.

tonyt15street
0
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tonyt15street 05/06/09 - 12:08 am
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Asitisinaug you must be a cop

Asitisinaug you must be a cop feeling pretty good about pulling the wool over some peoples eyes. All of these people you mentioned are working together. No witness were supeoned that supported Mr. Elmore. just cops and I know this how. I know. The other tapes magically were erased. Some people fear the truth and those that know the truth. This was just a bunch of mirrors and smoke screens. And the black politicians and leaders in the town are all fence riders. Good Night, Sleep Tight and don't let the bed bugs bite. May Good be with you'all.

tonyt15street
0
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tonyt15street 05/06/09 - 12:15 am
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spdermn78 the liquior stores

spdermn78 the liquior stores and grocery & conveince stores are selling death everyday 24-7, alcohol and tobacco kills more people than drugs. Have you ever did drugs or drunk alcohol. Do you think the police have the right to shoot you down if you run from them. DO YOU BREAK GODS LAWS?

SargentMidTown
8
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SargentMidTown 05/06/09 - 12:34 am
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tonyt15street ...The wages of

tonyt15street ...The wages of sin is death.

SargentMidTown
8
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SargentMidTown 05/06/09 - 12:43 am
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It is sickening to see men

It is sickening to see men gathering in front of the Shell Station on Walton Way. It makes customers uncomfortable. One should go into a store make their purchase then leave! Riff raff is revolting. If they wish to socialize they should go to their respective homes Support decency. Support www.hongkongaugustaga.org

Asitisinaug
4
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Asitisinaug 05/06/09 - 01:31 am
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Hmmm....another case where

Hmmm....another case where the only previous charges were drugs, trespassing, resisting arrest, etc.....amazing the similarities in the type of individual...

http://news.aol.com/article/baby-thrown-from-car/463968

wise
1
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wise 05/06/09 - 07:49 am
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It looks to me that the

It looks to me that the deputy was out of harms way when he started firing. I dont see how his life was threatened if Mr. Elmore drove around the deputy.

55 F-100
1
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55 F-100 05/06/09 - 08:38 am
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Here's hoping that if the New

Here's hoping that if the New Black Panthers march again that they will be wearing the Justin Elmore commemorative T-Shirts which some followers wore to the funeral service. Remember the shirts with Elmore's ARREST/BOOKING photo emblazoned on the front of the shirt? That would be such a fitting tribute to this hood-rat thug, and the New Black Panthers would be the perfect "club" to represent all of Elmore's service to his community. And it's so uplifting to know that Baby-Mama will soon be downloading two more little welfare-checks courtesy of Justin's good work habits........OMG! To all who actually work for a living, take pride in the fact that your tax dollars will pay for all of the Elmore-inspired downloads, and Baby-Mama won't have to be bothered with something as burdensome as working a job and paying taxes.

tabandco
0
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tabandco 05/06/09 - 09:23 am
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0
This is really sad!I'm a

This is really sad!I'm a strong believer of right is right and wrong is wrong!But according to the tape,looks like he was trying to avoid hitting them!And they just started firing like crazy,do they care if he had a hostage or not? Or that other people were around(you can see people running,when the shooting starts) So much of the tape is missing and silent,what about the other cars,did they have their camaras on?You can tell its been tampered with,first you hear sound,then you don't!it's just sad to see them just shooting without any thought for LIFE!!!It's always sad when a life is taken, for whatever reason,because he is a human being and he is someone's child!The ultimate JUDGE and JURY is GOD,and JUSTICE will prevail,according to his will!

whogivesarip
0
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whogivesarip 05/06/09 - 03:32 pm
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i think he got what he

i think he got what he deserved..... the innocent hardly ever run ....and he was hauling asssssssss..........but haul no more....

JohnQPublic
5
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JohnQPublic 05/06/09 - 05:10 pm
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If someone tried to run you

If someone tried to run you down with their vehicle what would you do or want the police to do? I bet if you had a gun in your hand and someone tried to run you over, you would shoot at them too. Folks who think the police should be prosecuted have no respect for the law. They are making Elmore and the police officers equal and they are not. Elmore's vehicle was used as a deadly weapon and the police responded in kind. Elmore's troubles were his own doing. He made the choices to live his life as he did and to die as he did. He was nothing more than a common criminal who thought the laws did not pertain to him. Sad to state, but true.

BarstoolDreamer
19
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BarstoolDreamer 05/06/09 - 05:29 pm
0
0
I have never tried to run

I have never tried to run anybody over and I have never been shot at.....is there a correlation there?

concernmom
404
Points
concernmom 05/06/09 - 05:31 pm
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The video is just

The video is just heartbreaking. I cringed through the entire 3 minutes. Why didn't the officers just shoot the tires flat? Maybe I am naive, but there must be a better way. I think all citizens of Richmond County just got a big wake-up call…

justus5
0
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justus5 05/06/09 - 06:45 pm
0
0
I love the smell of dead drug

I love the smell of dead drug dealers in the morning... it smells like... victory...

wilburcrabtree
0
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wilburcrabtree 05/06/09 - 07:23 pm
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I absolutely agree with the

I absolutely agree with the Grand Jury finding. Elmore was more than likely just one more crime away from taking an innocent life. He was a career criminal - it's all he knew how to do. It's too bad he kept being let out of jail to continue drug dealing, driving without a license and all the other criminal acts for which he was known. If he'd been in jail where he belonged, he might still be alive.

richie24
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richie24 05/08/09 - 11:38 pm
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First, let me start by saying

First, let me start by saying that I am an African American whom grew up in the Public Housing. I was fortunate enough to have attended a very prestigious predominate white college. At this college in 4 years, I witness more drug use and selling among the students in the dorms and at parties than I saw in all my years living in public housing. If the police really wanted to bust drug sellers and users, colleges are a great start; however as Ms. Ward mentioned these kids get a lot of passes. I witness a number of these kids get busted by the school, but since their parents were wealthy and important they looked the other way. There are double standards when talking about crime with different minority groups. The frat parties were wild, with plenty of drugs, drinking and sex. With that said, I now voice my opinion on the matter at hand. This was a complete abuse of power and complete disregard for human life on part of the officers. I feel that the gentleman Ortiz created a dangerous situation when he placed himself in front of a fleeing vehicle. Now they are using the tint on the window as another excuse for taking a man’s life in a situation created by an over zealous office

richie24
0
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richie24 05/11/09 - 08:50 pm
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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. Another cop has just pasted him and stopped 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 thinking that 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 know was behind him, started he quickly turns while trying to pull up. However, 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 bloody his brains hanging out, can you see him, now picture him white; and it’s a white kid ,he’s white kid. Can you see him, bloody brains hanging out, and dead body? Can you see him? He is white. I can be Justin Elmore to, and so can you are you child.

richie24
0
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richie24 05/11/09 - 09:33 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 - 09:33 pm
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0
. He has no regard for

. 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.

FallingLeaves
27
Points
FallingLeaves 05/12/09 - 12:20 am
0
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Sorry richie24. I'm not

Sorry richie24. I'm not buying what you say based on what I saw on the videos. Why don't you mention the child that was nearly run over, the child that had to back up and run behind the building because the SUV came flying up over the curb after nearly running over Ortiz? Since when is an SUV supposed to be on the sidewalk, by the way? That shows reckless disregard for lives and property, on top of the fact he nearly hit Ortiz. And Ortiz DID have to move out of the way of the SUV. Why did all the officers there go into pursuit of Ortiz. Did they have a Vulcan mind meld? No, they saw the common threat and went after Elmore, based on their training. All Elmore had to do was obey the officers and this would not have happened. He made a bad decision. Considering the autopsy showed he had marijuana in his system, this is a good teaching moment. People often don't make good decisions when they are under the influence of illegal substances. This was a really bad decision on his part. And it led to a tragedy. I hate seeing lives wasted. No officer likes to shoot anyone, for many reasons, one of them being because they know it's going to lead to cr*p like this.

FallingLeaves
27
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FallingLeaves 05/12/09 - 12:21 am
0
0
Sorry richie24. I'm not

Sorry richie24. I'm not buying what you say based on what I saw on the videos. Why don't you mention the child that was nearly run over, the child that had to back up and run behind the building because the SUV came flying up over the curb after nearly running over Ortiz? Since when is an SUV supposed to be on the sidewalk, by the way? That shows reckless disregard for lives and property, on top of the fact he nearly hit Ortiz. And Ortiz DID have to move out of the way of the SUV. Why did all the officers there go into pursuit of Ortiz. Did they have a Vulcan mind meld? No, they saw the common threat and went after Elmore, based on their training. All Elmore had to do was obey the officers and this would not have happened. He made a bad decision. Considering the autopsy showed he had marijuana in his system, this is a good teaching moment. People often don't make good decisions when they are under the influence of illegal substances. This was a really bad decision on his part. And it led to a tragedy. I hate seeing lives wasted. No officer likes to shoot, for many reasons, one of them being because they know it's going to lead to cr*p like I've been reading above.

FallingLeaves
27
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FallingLeaves 05/12/09 - 12:23 am
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Thanks AugustaGal for your

Thanks AugustaGal for your perspective. The good people in Cherry Tree Crossing appreciate it.

FACTFINDER1
0
Points
FACTFINDER1 05/12/09 - 11:01 am
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The D.A SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED

The D.A SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO DATE a officer from the Richmond County Sheriff Department. Whether male or female, that might be considered nepotism. And we know that the person in charge of internal affairs wife should not be working FOR the D.A. The Elmore guy case did not have a chance of going in his favor. The only way justice is served is if the incident is taped by a citizen and sent to the news media. The law would never show you anything that discredits them. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. I didn't think about the car that went racing behind the Elmore guy dash cam footage. That tape would have recorded the entire stop. That is the most damming video and it does not work. I smell fish.

FACTFINDER1
0
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FACTFINDER1 05/12/09 - 02:46 pm
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I always wondered how many

I always wondered how many people make up a Grand Jury and how they were chosen. I don’t think that a District Attorney or anyone in that office should be allowed to date an officer that works in the same jurisdiction in the United States, especially a high ranking officer. I also have a problem with a person in charge of let’s say a position like Internal Affairs having a wife that works in the District Attorney Office. I also think officers that make a non-violent situation deadly as I feel was the case here should be charged. I don’t think that a reporter or news anchor should be allowed to report on cases that involve law enforcement.

FACTFINDER1
0
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FACTFINDER1 05/12/09 - 02:48 pm
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0
I don’t think that a reporter

I don’t think that a reporter or news anchor that dates an officer should be allowed to report on cases that involve law enforcement. I would like to see the tape from that car that speeds down the sidewalk after the Elmore young man; this tape appears to have recorded the whole scenario. Why didn’t we see any footage from that dash cam? It also bothers me that there is no date, time or real time counter on this tape. I know people that can edit tapes and make you think that what you saw really happened. Not saying that this is what happened.

FACTFINDER1
0
Points
FACTFINDER1 05/12/09 - 02:48 pm
0
0
I always wondered how many

I always wondered how many people make up a Grand Jury and how they were chosen. I don’t think that a District Attorney or anyone in that office should be allowed to date an officer that works in the same jurisdiction in the United States, especially a high ranking officer. I also have a problem with a person in charge of let’s say a position like Internal Affairs having a wife that works in the District Attorney Office. I also think officers that make a non-violent situation deadly as I feel was the case here should be charged.

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