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Prosecutors consider whether to charge homeowner who killed suspected intruder, who had Alzheimer’s

Posted Dec 5, 2013 10:15 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Prosecutors are considering whether to charge a Georgia homeowner who shot and killed a person he believed to be an intruder—a 72-year-old man suffering from Alzheimer’s.

The New York Times, the Times Free Press and Time magazine covered the controversy. The homeowner, 34-year-old Joe Hendrix of Chickamauga, was disturbed at about 4 a.m. on Nov. 27 by a man jiggling the doorknob and ringing the doorbell, according to sheriff’s police in Walker County. Hendrix stepped outside with his gun and repeatedly asked the man who he was and why he was there, Hendrix told police.

The man, 72-year-old Ronald Westbrook, didn’t answer. He had wandered from his home during the night, taking his dogs with him while collecting mail from his neighbor’s mailboxes. Hendrix fired four shots, killing Westbrook with a bullet to the chest. Hendrix said he fired the fatal shot when Westbrook continued to keep walking toward him.

The incident highlights debate over “stand your ground” laws that do not require retreat in certain situations. District Attorney Herbert Franklin said he will be guided by the state law that allows deadly force when the shooter has a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury.

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