District attorney’s office won’t pursue charges against LPD officer who fired at machete-wielding man

Published 11:44 am Monday, February 6, 2023

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District Attorney Herb Cranford said Monday that his office will not be pursuing charges against a LaGrange police officer who fired a gun at a machete-wielding man in September 2021. 

The incident took place in September 2021, with an officer shooting Ronald Ray McCormick, who was holding a machete and appeared to charge toward officers. The officer who shot McCormick was identified as David Horsemen in a LPD press release from the incident, though he was not identified in Cranford’s press release on Monday.

The LPD released video from the incident shortly after it happened, showing body cam footage of the incident. McCormick was shot in the abdomen and the legs, according to the LPD press release.

In the video, an officer makes contact with McCormick — who had already fled — and yelled at him to drop the machete, warning him that he was “going to get shot” if he did not. McCormick replied he “did not give a [derogatory]” and proceeded to charge at the officer with the machete, as shown in the video, though the footage is slowed and dark. The officer, identified by the LPD has Horsemen, deployed his Taser at McCormick but the Taser was ineffective, according to the press release. Horsemen then fired his handgun and struck McCormick in the stomach.

McCormick was indicted by a grand Jury on Dec. 6, 2021, for aggravated assault of a peace officer in violation of OCGA 16-5-21 and felony obstruction of an officer in violation of OCGA 16-10-24(b).

“On March 22, 2022, the GBI provided their full investigative file to the District Attorney’s Office for review. The purpose of the review was to determine whether the officer was legally justified in using deadly force against Mr. McCormick,” the press release from Cranford’s office said. “This office has completed its review of the evidence and declines to pursue charges against the officer that used deadly force.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations file reviewed by the district attorney’s office included reports, evidence related to the processing of the crime scene, body worn camera videos which captured the use of force, McCormick’s medical records, the officer’s training records, and copies of the failure to appear warrants active against McCormick at the time he was shot. Also in the file are various interviews, including with the officer who used force, other officers who interacted with McCormick, the person who initially called 911 on McCormick and McCormick.

Cranford wrote that the district attorney’s office is not releasing detailed information because McCormick’s criminal case is still active.

He said he does not want this office’s public disclosure of the evidence to risk violating the State Bar of Georgia’s Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 3.8, “Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor.” In relevant part, that rule states, “The prosecutor in a criminal case shall: . . . (g) except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused[.]”

He did write that he felt it was appropriate at this time to state publicly that the legal analysis of this case included the application of Official Code of Georgia (OCGA) 16-3-21(a), OCGA 17-4-20(b), and OCGA 16-5-21. It also included reliance on the precedent of the United States Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor in 1989, which was quoted by the Georgia Court of Appeals in State v. Hall in 2016:

“The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. … The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation”.

“While this office is not going to explain publicly its analysis of this officer’s use of deadly force in this release, the District Attorney has memorialized in writing detailed factual and legal analysis in a letter to the GBI dated February 6, 2023, which will be made available upon request at the resolution of Mr. McCormick’s case,” Cranford said. “The conclusion of the district attorney’s analysis is that the state will not be pursuing criminal charges against the officer who used deadly force against Mr. McCormick and the review of this use of force is closed.”