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Monday, December 2, 2013

Lots of bad decisions ...

... but that doesn't mean criminal:

Questions about Georgia’s “stand your ground” law will surely be raised after a 72-year-old Chickamauga man was shot dead in a residential neighborhood Wednesday morning.

Shortly before 4 a.m. a man who was staying at a residence on Cottage Crest Court in Chickamauga called 911 to report a prowler in the yard, according to Walker County sheriff Steve Wilson.

Less than 10 minutes later the caller, identified as Joe Hendrix, 34, of Chattanooga, Tenn., made a second 911 call, this time to report he had shot someone he believed to be the prowler.
This is local to me but I'm sure you'll all hear about it, since it went national on Friday.

As this is Monday, there has been a lot more information come out, but not nearly enough to make a good call (though the information that's come from the sheriff's department indicates no charges).

What we definitely know is this: The dead man is 72 year old Ronald Westbrook, a pilot in the Air Force with 33 years of service, a pilot and flight instructor, a good family man, active in the church and passionate about music. He was also suffering from Alzheimers that had recently left him unable to speak.

On the night in question, Mr Westbrook was able to slip out of his home at around midnight, wearing a light jacket (the temps that night were in the 20's), a straw hat and went for a walk with his dog. He ultimately wandered more than 3 miles to the home of Joe Hendrix and his fiancee (reports are varied on this, Hendrix alternately lives in TN, with his fiancee and was just visiting when the incident took place).

Apparently lost and disoriented, Westbrook went to the only house with a porch light on (Hendrix') at 4am, rang the bell and tried to get in. This woke Hendrix and fiancee, the fiancee then called 911. It took over 10 minutes for deputies to arrive. In that time, Westbrook had left and come back to the porch and tried to enter again. After 10 minutes and no responding officers, Hendrix armed himself with a .40 handgun and went out the back to investigate. When he went around to the side of the house he saw Westbrook in silhouette, where Westbrook began to approach Hendrix. Hendrix reportedly gave several verbal commands but Westbrook continued to advance. Hendrix then fired 4 rounds (hitting Westbrook once in the chest). He returned to the house and reported to 911 that he had shot and possibly killed someone.

Westbrooks body was removed at 10:30 that morning. The sheriff and the DA were at the scene. Mr Hendrix and his fiancee cooperated fully with officers at the scene and neither was arrested or charged (at this time). The sheriff has made statements that it is his personal opinion that Hendrix should have stayed inside the house (which I agree with) but that he broke no laws by going outside. He also stated that he had no doubt that Mr Hendrix and his fiancee were in fear.

Complicating this case is the fact that the sheriff and Westbrook went to the same church and were personal friends and in spite of that, I believe the sheriff is acting in the most professional way possible.

Andrew Branca (he wrote The Law of Self Defense) made noises that he might be interested in this case and would be reporting on in early this week. When I see anything I'll try to alert everyone (or you can watch Legal Insurrection).

There's no doubt that this is a bad deal for everyone involved, doubly so because Westbrook was such a good guy. I'm praying for his family, Sheriff Wilson and Joe Hendrix.


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