ATLANTA - A U.S. man who fatally shot a wandering Alzheimer's patient in the early morning hours in Georgia will not face criminal charges, a local prosecutor said Friday.
Joe Hendrix, 35, fatally shot 72-year-old Ronald Westbrook on Nov. 27. The elderly man had slipped from his home and wandered in the cold and dark for hours until randomly approaching the rural home of Hendrix's fiancee, repeatedly knocking on the door and ringing the bell.
Hendrix's fiancee called emergency services, while Hendrix grabbed his .40-calibre handgun, went outside and confronted the unknown man in the dark. Hendrix told police that he could see that man was carrying a cylindrical object, which turned out to be a flashlight. The unknown man ignored shouts to stop and came at Hendrix, he later told police. Hendrix fired three or four times, wounding Westbrook in the chest.
District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin said he could press charges only if investigators could prove that Hendrix was not acting in self-defence when he pulled the trigger.
Hendrix appreciated the care and deliberation shown by investigators, said his attorney, Lee Davis.
"Mr. Hendrix fully acknowledges the loss to Westbrook family, and his thoughts and prayers are with them," Davis said in a statement.
The outcome brought no solace to Westbrook's family.
"I'm a little upset," said Deanne Westbrook, the slain man's widow. "...I really wanted to see it go before a grand jury, and then maybe before a jury. But they tell me there's not enough evidence for that."
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