Authorities in northwest Georgia say a man shot and killed a 72-year-old who he thought might be an intruder but who turned out to be a wandering Alzheimer’s patient.
Walker County police told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that Ronald Westbrook had walked about 3 miles in the sub-freezing temperatures before knocking on Joe Hendrix’s door just before 4 a.m. Wednesday.
Westbrook,who had one or two dogs with him, apparently wandered three miles away from a home he shared with his wife, who did not know he was gone until contacted by police. Her suffering can only be imagined. Westbrook was wearing only a light jacket and straw hat in sub-freezing temperatures.
When he knocked the door, Hendrix’s fiancee didn’t answer, instead calling police.
Sheriff Steve Wilson, who used to attend church with the ex Air Force pilot patient, said before deputies arrived, Hendrix went into the backyard with his handgun, where he saw Westbrook in silhouette.
Wilson says the 34-year-old Hendrix recalled giving Westbrook several verbal commands, but the advanced Alzheimer’s patient didn’t respond. Reports say Alzheimer’s had left the old man virtually mute.
Hendrix then fired four shots. One hit Westbrook, in the chest, killing him.
Wilson says charges could be filed but says Hendrix didn’t violate any laws by walking out into his own yard. But according to local newspaper The Chatanoogan, he is currently unlikely to be charged.
Georgia believes in the “no requirement to retreat” principle. Even from tired, old, cold, straw-hatted men, who can’t speak to defend themselves. I just hope their legislators are proud of themselves.