Ronald Westbrook, 72, slipped unnoticed from his North Georgia home at 1:00 AM with his two dogs. Westbrook, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, knocked in the dark on a stranger’s door. Police said a man inside that home, 34-year-old Joe Hendrix, got a .40-caliber handgun, went outside to investigate and shot Westbrook in what is being called a horrible mistake.
Hendrix declined to comment because of the ongoing investigation. His attorney, Lee Davis, described his client as distraught. The local district attorney has not yet decided whether to press criminal charges against Hendrix for shooting a stranger possibly looking for help.
Hendrix’ attorney said about his client “He is not a gun-toting rights activist who’s saying, ‘Keep off my property,” Davis said. “He’s a man who thought he had to take action because of what he believed to be a real and imminent threat.”
Under Georgia law, people are not required to try retreating from a potential conflict before opening fire to defend themselves from serious imminent harm. State law allows people to use lethal force to stop someone from forcibly entering a home if those inside reasonably fear they are going to be attacked. Deadly force can even be used to stop someone from trying to forcibly enter a home to commit a felony.
Different people have a different understanding of what is reasonable, reasonableness is a classic question for a jury in my opinion.