After review of facts and the relevant law, the District Attorney’s Office will not pursue charges against Joe Hendrix arising out of the tragic shooting death of Ronald Westbrook.
In the early morning hours of Wednesday, November 27, 2013, a Chickamauga area resident observed a man in her driveway shining a flashlight into a car in the driveway. A call was made to Walker County 911. Deputy Simpson with the Walker County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched. Deputy Simpson was in the area of North Marble Top Road in response to this ‘prowler’ call when, at about 2:30 a.m., he observed a man later identified as Ronald Westbrook walking away from a mailbox at the end of a driveway. Westbrook had a flashlight and several items of mail in his hand. He also had two dogs with him. The temperature that morning was extremely cold and windy. The deputy was concerned for Westbrook being out at that hour and in those weather conditions. He asked Westbrook if he was okay. Westbrook replied he was okay and walked away from the deputy. The deputy inquired further if he lived in the area and, without stopping, Westbrook said he lived up the driveway. The deputy described Westbrook as being upset with the deputy’s inquiries.
Later the same morning, at approximately 4:00 a.m., another call was placed to 911 by the female resident of the last house in the cul-de-sac at Cottage Crest Court in Chickamauga, Georgia. She reported a man, later identified as Westbrook, ringing the doorbell and trying to open the front door of her residence. A deputy was immediately dispatched in response. After his attempts to gain entry at the front of the house were unsuccessful, Westbrook made his way to the north side of the residence and ultimately to the rear of the residence. Joe Hendrix, an occupant of the residence, took a handgun and left the house to confront the man. Hendrix came around the corner of the house and yelled at Westbrook first to stop and then to come to him. There was no external lighting and the flashlight Westbrook had earlier was either not working or was turned off. Westbrook never verbally responded to Hendrix but began to advance towards Hendrix in what Hendrix described as a quick and aggressive manner. Hendrix could only see a silhouette figure carrying a cylindrical object in his hand but could not make out anything else. Hendrix shouted at Westbrook to stop. Westbrook made no verbal response but continued to advance towards Hendrix in the same manner. Hendrix retreated to the front corner of the house. Hendrix was concerned that if the man got by him, his girlfriend in the house would be defenseless. Hendrix shot 3 to 4 times. Westbrook fell to the ground and Hendrix ran back into the house. Later examination revealed Westbrook had been shot one time in the chest and he died as a result. The flashlight and pieces of mail from other local residents were found beside Westbrook.
Westbrook suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Westbrook was about 1.3 miles from his home when approached by Deputy Simpson. The shooting occurred approximately 2.7 miles from Westbrook’s home.
The District Atttorney’s Office is expanding the Catoosa County Pre-Trial Drug Diversion Program. It will now be known as the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Pre-Trial Drug Diversion Program. The program has proven to be successful according to Dr. Denny Whitesel, the director of the Center for HOPE which operates the program. The program has had several graduates to date and only two have failed to complete the program requirements. The Center for HOPE now has or soon will have offices in each county of the circuit where they can meet with program participants.
If you are a defense attorney and you have a client who is an offender who has committed a property or drug crime that did not result in injury to a victim and the client has no significant criminal history and whose underlying problem is drug and/or alcohol addiction, please contact the Assistant District Attorney who is handling the case to initially review the case and determine if it is appropriate to refer the defendant to the Center for HOPE for an evaluation and determination of eligibility.
A few things you need to know: The program is faith based. There are three tiers of treatment, depending upon the evaluation. It does cost money but the cost is on a sliding scale. If there is a victim, the victim must consent and, if there is restitution due to the victim, that must be paid. There is also a one-time administrative fee which must be paid to the Clerk of the Superior Court of the county. In certain cases, there may be community service.
If you think your client may be eligible, please let the District Attorney’s Office know as soon as possible. If you wait until close to calendar call, you might not get the evaluation done in time.
Herbert E. (Buzz) Franklin
Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit
To all Sheriffs, Bailiffs, Attorneys and Attorney’s support staff of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit
It is the policy of the Courts of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit to provide full
access to the public and media for all judicial functions that are not mandated by statute to be privately held.
Space considerations and the number of different judges and courts holding hearings sometimes cause civil and criminal non-jury hearings to be conducted in offices or conference rooms. In order to provide public access, all attorneys are hereby directed to notify court services and the appropriate presiding judge that some family member, victim or other member of the public wish to enter the room in which the hearing is being held. If the attorney is aware that the number of attendees is too large for the room, then the presiding judge must be notified in advance to allow the proceedings to take place in a large enough room to accommodate those present.
All bailiffs of this circuit are directed to notify the presiding judge if some member of the public approaches them about entering a hearing room. This must be communicated to the presiding judge so that the person may given appropriate access.
This is in no way intended to provide access for sequestered witnesses that have not been excused by the presiding judge.
From our Superior Court Judges