Local prosecutors said Friday that they won't pursue any charges against a North Georgia man who shot and killed a disoriented septuagenarian who'd wandered the neighborhood in search of his home one dark morning late last fall.
Joe Hendrix, 35, fatally shot 72-year-old Ronald Westbrook on Nov. 27. The elderly man had slipped from his home as early as 1 a.m. and wandered in the cold and dark for hours until randomly approaching the home of Hendrix's fiancee on a rural cul-de-sac, repeatedly knocking on the door and ringing the bell. Hendrix's fiancee called 911, while Hendrix grabbed his .40-caliber handgun, went outside and confronted Westbrook in the dark. Hendrix told police that he fired four shots after Westbrook ignored commands to stop, identify himself and raise his hands.
District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin's office characterized the incident as a "tragic shooting death" in a written statement. Franklin did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Hendrix had reportedly come over to his girlfriend's new house after she was spooked by an encounter with Westbrook at the front door. Westbrook's widow said "her husband had become confused about where he lived and struggled to identify those closest to him."
Westbrook—pictured above in photos from his Chickamauga home—was a Lions Club president and 33-year veteran of the Air Force before retiring and descending into Alzheimer's-fueled confusion.
Prior to the shooting, a police officer had spotted Westbrook walking the street, and the elderly man calmly told the officer he was getting the mail before returning home. "Nothing about the conversation alarmed the officer," the AP reported.
[Photo credit: AP]