District Attorney: Use of force justified in Hogansville officer involved shooting

Published 5:03 pm Thursday, September 10, 2020

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The District Attorney’s Office concluded in its investigation that the use of force by two Hogansville Police Department officers in April was justified and that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any officer committed a crime.

According to a press release from Coweta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herb Cranford, on April 25, HPD called the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate an officer-involved shooting at 602 Lincoln Street in Hogansville.

GBI Special Agent Jeff Hatchett conducted an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the shooting, which resulted in the death of Faron Hammond.

The press release said the Cranford’s office has reviewed Hatchet’s investigative file and the evidence, and has met with the Hammond family to discuss the evidence and analysis of the case.

The investigative file included body camera audio and video from the two officers involved in the shooting, statements from the two officers involved, statements from witnesses, 911 calls and time log; autopsy report, training logs and records, statements from Hammond’s family, medical records and forensic evidence recovered at the scene.

An autopsy revealed Hammond was struck by four bullets and died from the gunshot wounds.

The DA said the body cameras captured the events before, during and after the shooting. The videos are consistent with the statements given by officers and witnesses.

According to the release, on April 25, at 9:07 p.m., Hammond’s next-door neighbor called 911 to report Hammond was playing loud music, screaming and using obscenities.

HPD Officer Joshua McCoy was dispatched to Hammond’s house, but did not hear any noise or see Hammond, the release said.

At 9:40 p.m. the neighbor across the street from Hammond called 911 to report Hammond had resumed the screaming and obscenities, the release said. McCoy was dispatched a second time to Hammond’s house.

At 9:42 p.m., Hammond called 911 to complain about his neighbor having threatened him. McCoy arrived at 9:43 p.m. and spoke to Hammond’s next-door neighbor, the release said. HPD Sgt. Shane Fitch arrived at 9:47 p.m. and spoke with the neighbor across the street from Hammond.

The DA said both neighbors confirmed Hammond’s loud, obscenity-laced and at times threatening verbal behavior. Fitch then walked to Hammond’s house, with McCoy following shortly thereafter.

Finch knocked on the side of Hammond’s house to alert Hammond of the officers’ presence and then starting knocking on Hammond’s front door, the release said. Finch explained through the closed door to Hammond that he wanted to talk to him about why he had called the police. McCoy arrived a. Finch was trying to get Hammond to open the door to talk, the release said. Finch spoke to Hammond through the closed door for two minutes in an effort to get him to talk to them.  During the two minutes, Hammond yelled and screamed at the officers.

The press release stated that at all times Finch was calm and non-threatening with the language he used.

At approximately 9:52 p.m., Finch was standing at the front door when Hammond opened the curtain covering the window immediately next to the front door. Hammond yelled at Finch and held a shotgun at his waist pointing in the direction of the officer, the release said.

In response to the gun and threat posed by Hammond, Finch kicked open the front door, the release said. Finch yelled at Hammond to drop the weapon as Hammond stood a short distance away from the door with the shotgun at his waist pointed at Finch.

According to the press release, Hammond then shot Finch. Finch and McCoy returned fire, striking Hammond. After law enforcement backup arrived, McCoy performed chest compressions on Hammond until EMS arrived. Hammond died at the scene.

Finch was shot in the abdomen; the shotgun blast being caught by his protective vest. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital for treatment, the release said. According to Hammond’s family, he suffered from mental disorders and may have been on a variety of medications.

Hammond was known to drink and would often become loud and boisterous, frequently using profanity at his neighbors, according to the release. His family stated he was always mad at the police and he held grudges.

The family added that he harbored considerable animus toward the HPD. Hammond had previous arrests and convictions, including threats to harm law enforcement, the release said.

According to the DA, Hammond was known to have guns, though his family had recently taken away his guns with the exception of the shotgun with which he shot Finch.

According to the press release, it is not clear why Hammond behaved in the manner he did on April 25. Multiple witnesses gave statements that he was yelling, screaming profanities and acting irrational.

“The Hogansville Police Department had experience in dealing with Mr. Hammond and was attempting to do so peacefully that night,” the press release stated. “Mr. Hammond called 911 and should have expected the officers’ presence at his house.”

The DA said that when Hammond pointed a shotgun at Sgt. Finch, both officers responded quickly and decisively.

After kicking open Hammond’s front door, Finch had hoped to disarm Hammond, the release said. With a shotgun pointed at him, Sgt. Finch gave commands to Hammond to drop the weapon. Only after Hammond opened fire did the officers return fire.

“Applying these facts to the relevant law, specifically the law of self-defense, shows that Officer McCoy and Sgt. Fitch were justified in using deadly force against Mr. Hammond,” the press release stated. “Because there is insufficient evidence to show that either officer violated the laws of Georgia, this case will not be presented to a grand jury and the District Attorney’s Office considers this matter closed.”