Lawman charged in shooting vows to continue as sheriff

AP News
|
Posted: May 07, 2015 1:53 PM
Lawman charged in shooting vows to continue as sheriff

JONESBORO, Ga. (AP) — A day after he was charged with reckless conduct in the shooting of a real estate agent, a Georgia sheriff called it a "tragic accident" and vowed to continue his law enforcement duties.

Meanwhile, a Georgia police standards group said it's opening an investigation into the case.

Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill shot Gwenevere McCord, 43, in the model home of a new subdivision near Lawrenceville on Sunday, police said. Hill told a 911 dispatcher he was conducting police training exercises and accidentally shot her, authorities said.

"While focused on the recovery and healing of Gwenevere, I will simultaneously continue with my duties and responsibilities as the Sheriff of Clayton County," Hill said in a written statement Thursday.

Hill also asked for continued prayers for McCord, who was hospitalized in critical condition.

"I want to thank you all for your continued prayers for Gwenevere, and ask that you continue to keep her and her family lifted in prayer," he said.

No alcohol or drugs were involved, according to a police report obtained Thursday by The Associated Press. The brief report offers few additional facts about what happened, and police haven't released Hill's 911 call.

Hill was arrested Wednesday on a charge of reckless conduct — a misdemeanor — and released on bond later Wednesday.

Authorities have said that Hill and McCord, who are friends, were alone in the model home in Gwinnett County, about 50 miles northeast of Hill's office.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter has said he has fundamental questions about Hill's statement to the dispatcher that he accidentally shot McCord during training exercises.

McCord, shot in the abdomen, has been physically unable to tell investigators what happened and Hill has refused to do so, Porter said Wednesday.

Hill was allowed to leave the scene without giving an official statement, investigators have said. Porter said he was told by Hill's lawyer that the sheriff would not be speaking with investigators.

"It would certainly assist the investigation if we had his side of the facts, but that's his choice to make," Porter said. "I can't force him to."

Lawyer Drew Findling, who has represented Hill previously, didn't return messages from The Associated Press Wednesday or Thursday.

Hill gave his cellphone to investigators at the scene and also turned over the clothing he was wearing and both guns he had at the time, Porter said.

Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council Executive Director Ken Vance said Hill's misdemeanor charge is unlikely to have any immediate impact on his ability to serve as sheriff, but the organization is opening an investigation into the case.

"We will look at whether or not he will be able to retain his certification to be a law enforcement officer," Vance said. He added that the investigation will likely begin after the misdemeanor case is resolved in court.

"If by chance he is charged with a felony we will immediately suspend his certification to be a law enforcement officer," Vance said.

Terry Norris, director of the Georgia Sheriff's Association, said if an official is indicted on a felony charge the governor can appoint a panel to recommend whether sanctions should be imposed.

"If a public official, including a sheriff, is convicted of a felony then he's removed from office," Norris said.

Hill's time as sheriff in the county south of Atlanta has been tumultuous. On his first day in office a decade ago, he fired more than two dozen deputies. He also used a military tank on drug raids as part of a tough-on-crime message.

He was voted out of office in 2008, but won it back again in 2012 despite facing more than two dozen criminal charges in a corruption case. A jury later acquitted him of all 27 charges, including theft and giving false statements. That cleared the way for Hill to continue as sheriff.

Hill's POST certification was suspended when he was under indictment.

___

Associated Press writer Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this story.