An Alzheimer’s patient was shot and killed after wandering into the wrong yard. Georgia authorities said 72-year-old Ronald Westbrook was shot by 34-year-old Joe Hendrix at approximately 4 am. Hendrix said he thought the elderly man was an intruder.
Although it was below freezing, Westbrook left his home in the middle of the night to walk his two dogs. Authorities said he wandered close to three miles with only a light jacket and a straw hat to keep him warm.
At around 2:30 am, Westbrook was stopped and questioned by a deputy. The elderly man explained that he just walked to his mailbox and was heading home with the mail. More than an hour later, the Alzheimer’s patient showed up at Hendrix’s front door.
As reported by Times Free Press, the elderly man rang Hendrix’s doorbell at around 3:54 am. Sheriff Steve Wilson said it was the only house on the block with a porch light on. He believes Westbrook was “drawn to that light.”
Hendrix and his fiancée said they were frightened. They were not expecting any guests and they did not recognize the man in their yard. While they waited for authorities to arrive, Hendrix grabbed his.40-caliber handgun and walked outside.
As it was still dark, Hendrix said he could only see the man’s silhouette. ABC News reports that he asked him what he was doing and gave him several “verbal commands” to stand still. However, the Alzheimer’s patient was confused and he failed to respond. As he continued to approach, Hendrix raised his gun and fired four shots.
By the time authorities arrived, Westbrook was dead.
Sheriff Wilson said no criminal charges were filed in the shooting. He said Hendrix and his fiancée both expressed remorse and were “fully cooperative” with the investigation. Wilson said Georgia’s “stand-your-grand.” law may protect Hendrix from criminal prosecution.
Westbrook’s family said they were not aware he wandered away until he had been gone for hours. They said they watched him closely as he was an Alzheimer’s patient. However, it was difficult to watch him at all times.
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