UPDATE: Sheriff Bill Harrell comments on David Hooks case
I remained silent over the last nine months as my deputies and I were heavily criticized with distortions and misinformation concerning the events of September 24, 2014, and the death of David Hooks. I did so with concern that my words or replies to criticism might hamper the ongoing investigation conducted by the GBI. I now believe the investigation is complete.
At this point, I can say that the Sheriff’s office did not act improperly. The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office would not have been at David Hooks’ residence had he not made his decision to involve himself with methamphetamine, a decision I deeply regret for David Hooks and his family. Not only was methamphetamine in his system, but crime lab forensics provides significant evidence linking David Hooks to the stash of methamphetamine seized from a cooperating informant on September 24, 2014.
Just as David Hooks made the decision to become involved with methamphetamine (a dangerous stimulant drug known to cause paranoia and distorted reality), he also made the unfortunate decision, perhaps a decision heavily influenced by the methamphetamine in his system, to challenge Laurens County deputies with a shotgun as they performed their duty.
I am providing a lengthy statement of facts which is contrary to so many of the falsehoods and assertions made over the last nine months. I do not believe all undue criticism will end, but I do believe that the facts show Laurens County Sheriff’s Office acted properly and in the interest of public safety.
I am sure those with ulterior motives will continue to spread their false narrative concerning the events of September 24, 2014. My actions will be in support of my deputies as we focus our fight to suppress the tremendous spread of methamphetamine and other illicit drugs occurring in our county and the crime, chaos and misery that accompany this.
1. The search warrant was not served as a no-knock warrant.
· While attempting to serve the search warrant, deputies in class A uniforms (daily uniforms) were sent to the front and carport doors. The deputy in the carport stood in front of a glass door. He knocked several times, repeatedly identified himself as with the Sheriff’s office and stated that he held a search warrant. During this time, he made visual contact with Hooks who then suddenly moved to another room.
· The carport was illuminated by an outdoor light and law enforcement vehicles. Some lights were on inside the residence. There was adequate light to see the area inside the door.
· The deputy was known to the Hooks’ family and had visited the residence in the past.
· Deputies only entered the residence after Hooks was clearly aware the deputies were present and failed to cooperate by opening the door and moved to another room.
· Four SRT (Sheriff’s Response Team) members, who repeatedly identified themselves, then entered the residence where they were met by Hooks, who held a shotgun and failed to disarm himself as ordered.
· After Hooks raised the barrel of the shotgun at the deputies, the four deputies, who hesitated to give Hooks a chance to drop his weapon, discharged their handguns in self-defense.
· While at the scene, Hooks was treated by SRT paramedics. I, Sheriff Harrell, briefly left the scene to meet an ambulance and to escort it to the residence.
2. The Sheriff’s office did not go to the Hooks’ residence with a heightened expectation of a violent encounter.
· The SRT is routinely used to complete service of drug search warrants. Drug enforcement is recognized by law enforcement and the courts as a high risk endeavor. We often hope that a strong presence of law enforcement will lessen the opportunity or tendency to resist a court ordered search.
· The volunteer paramedics assigned to the response team ordinarily travel with deputies to offer medical aid to any citizen or law enforcement officer injured during a SRT callout. The paramedics routinely train with the response team, often on their own time.
3. David Hooks had not been the victim of a home burglary or home invasion. Hooks had recently reported the theft of a vehicle and firearms from outside his house.
· The stolen vehicle was reportedly located at a shelter behind Hooks’ residence. The shelter was detached from the immediate area of the residence. Much of the stolen property and the stolen methamphetamine were surrendered to deputies along with an incriminating admission by the person who took the property. After deputies received the information and the stolen methamphetamine, a search warrant was sought.
4. The Sheriff’s office was not in error in seeking a judge’s order for a search warrant.
· The Sheriff’s office did not act recklessly in determining that cause existed to seek a search warrant for David Hooks’ residence. Probable cause is the legal standard for a search warrant and not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
· Deputies did not merely accept the word a methamphetamine addict to justify application for a search warrant. The information given by the source was detailed and a solid admission of his own criminal conduct for which he was charged.
· When the source reported that he stole David Hooks’ vehicle and stash of methamphetamine, he clearly gave evidence against his own criminal interest, even releasing the significant quantity of methamphetamine to law enforcement.
· The U.S. Supreme Court has stated, ”People do not lightly admit a crime and place critical evidence in the hands of police in the form of their on admissions.” The Supreme Court took a common sense approach that such information can be the basis of probable cause for a search warrant.
· In the David Hooks’ case, deputies not only had credible evidence by a person admitting his own crime of theft and who surrendered a large stash of methamphetamine that he had stolen, but also had information which had been documented in Sheriff’s office records several years earlier. Prior to 2014, deputies apprehended a significant methamphetamine trafficker who identified David Hooks as a trafficker in methamphetamine and provided significant inside details. This information was shared with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration long before September 2014. In drug investigations, it is not uncommon to document information for months or years to gain legal justification for a warrant.
· The source interviewed in September 2014 and the source interviewed years earlier both provided information linking Hooks to the trafficking of methamphetamine. The sources spoke independent of each other and had no known connection.
· Deputies seeking the search warrant contacted a veteran prosecutor with the Dublin District Attorney’s Office and reviewed the probable cause affidavit. A search warrant was sought only after the DA’s office agreed that there was probable cause to seek the warrant.
· A deputy completed an affidavit for the search warrant and presented it to an experienced magistrate judge who applied constitutional standards and determined that probable cause existed to issue a search warrant for the residence of David Hooks.
5. The Laurens County SRT is a well-trained, well-disciplined team of extraordinary deputies who routinely place themselves at significant risk to serve our community. Certain high risk tasks in law enforcement necessitate the need for deputies who are trained to work as a team, utilizing special tactics to minimize the risk of death or injury.
· The Laurens County SRT is a highly skilled group of 11 deputies who work normal duties and volunteer for the team assignment. Collectively, they have 96 years of law enforcement experience. They train monthly, often interrupting their days off. They respond to make arrests and serve search warrants whenever needed.
· They are supplemented by paramedics who volunteer, again often working or training on scheduled days off. All of the volunteer paramedics are current or former employees of Laurens County EMS.
· The team is highly respected for its tactical expertise. They have often been called to assist surrounding counties in dangerous situations. They have been utilized on multiple occasions to assist various state and federal agencies.
· The 11 deputies on the team collectively have over 15,400 law enforcement training hours. Over 5,800 of these hours strongly correlate to their SRT duties.
· They have shared their special tactical skills with others. In the past, they trained all Laurens County deputies on tactics to use if entering a school or some other location where an active shooter is in place.
· Three team members have served in the U.S. military, all 3 serving in combat zones. One served as a Marine Corps instructor, training officer candidates.
· In 2010, two team members were recognized for heroism by the Region V middle Georgia EMS Council. While on patrol, these deputies were dispatched to a man entrapped in a burning vehicle. The deputies worked furiously to save his life, remaining at his side while pulling on his body and the vehicle despite large flames and extraordinary risk to themselves. This extreme heroism was captured on dash cam video as he was extricated seconds before the flames would have overtaken him and the deputies.
6. The Sheriff’s office drug unit is a highly regarded unit led by a veteran drug agent who is extremely knowledgeable and effective in his assignment.
· The unit has been comprised of 4 deputies with over 55 years of law enforcement experience.
· The unit has successfully prosecuted many Laurens County drug violators in state and federal court, enhancing the quality of life in our community. Last month, several Laurens County drug violators pled guilty in federal court to lengthy sentences following a joint local / federal drug investigation started by the Laurens County drug unit.
· From January 2012 to January 2015 Sheriff’s office records reflect over 400 arrests through investigation by this small but highly effective unit.
7. The Sheriff’s office acted within the scope of reasonable and standard law enforcement procedures when serving the search warrant.
· During service of the search warrant, neither SRT members nor any other deputy wore a hood or mask. Team members wore solid-colored clothing which is clearly marked to identify them as deputy sheriffs and helmets to protect them from gunfire. This is the standard clothing of the tactical team. Some deputies at the residence wore daily uniforms.
· Deputies in daily uniforms were designated to approach the doors to the residence. Those officers did not wear helmets nor any other special gear.
· All deputies, including team members, approached the residence without delay after parking in the drive and yard. Marked patrol units and a marked SRT truck were among the vehicles used by the deputies. The markings on the vehicles identified them as Sheriff’s vehicles.
· Bright sidelights on the SRT vehicle were illuminated as deputies arrived. Lights were also illuminated outside the residence.
· SRT deputies only entered the residence as justified by circumstances.
· Deputies did not discharge their handguns from outside the house.
· Deputies did not discharge their handguns through walls in an effort to strike Hooks. They discharged their weapons at a man who stood directly before them and raised a shotgun.
· Deputies did not shoot Hooks as he lay on the floor.
8. Proper protocol was followed after Hooks was injured.
· All deputies exited the residence while preserving the scene for GBI processing.
· Hooks was promptly given emergency medical aid by on-scene paramedics and transported by ambulance.
· The four deputies who discharged their firearms were immediately separated from one another.
· All deputies, including those who discharged their firearms, went to the Sheriff’s office and cooperated in a taped interview by the investigating GBI agents. (Just as any ordinary citizen, they had a constitutional right to refuse any questioning.)
· The statements made within hours of the event were later corroborated by the findings of the medical examiner and the findings of the agents who meticulously processed the scene over several days.
9. The events of September 24, 2014, have been thoroughly investigated, and there is no wrongdoing.
· The case was investigated in extraordinary detail by competent and experienced state investigators. They found no wrongdoing.
· Crime scene processing by state crime scene specialists yielded evidence corroborating the statements of the four SRT deputies who discharged their firearms.
· Crime lab forensic tests corroborate the statements of the four SRT deputies.
· The findings of the assistant state medical examiner corroborate the statements of the four SRT deputies.
DUBLIN, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The special prosecuting attorney will not file criminal charges against the Laurens County sheriff’s deputies who killed a Dublin man during a drug raid at his home in September.
The Grand Jury’s Findings
According to the grand jury report, the jurors found the evidence “does not support the filing of criminal charges” against the four deputies and the use of deadly force was justified. It states the deputies acted “in defense of self and others.”
The grand jury met for two days last week. The report was filed in Laurens County Superior Court on Wednesday.
The grand jury heard testimony from Hooks’ wife and several investigators with the GBI. Jurors also reviewed evidence including crime scene photos, the search warrant and application for search warrant, lab reports for toxicology, autopsy, and DNA, as well as a computer generated crime scene analysis presentation.
Sheriff Bill Harrell wrote a response to the grand jury’s presentment. He stated he continues “to appreciate the service of the Laurens County deputies who were involved in the search” and who “put their lives in harm’s way to protect the people of Laurens County and their fellow deputies.” Harrell wrote “it is unfortunate that Mr. Hooks, who was under the influence of methamphetamine, would not cooperate with law enforcement and took aggressive action.”
The report states the grand jurors were concerned that the “Sheriff’s Department chose to execute this search warrant at such a late hour.” It recommended the sheriff’s department review its policies. If deputies execute a warrant at night, they “should ensure that they are clearly identifiable from outside by use of lighted law enforcement vehicles.”
Harrell stated he understood the grand jury’s concerns and adds deputies cannot “always avoid evening service of arrest or search warrants. I also realize that we cannot make blanket announcement to those involved in criminal activity, especially drug activity, that the night is theirs.”
Special prosecuting attorney Chuck Spahos tells 41NBC he agrees with the grand jury’s findings and will not take any criminal action.
On September 21, a report was filed with the sheriff’s office regarding a stolen truck. A possible suspect was identified. Deputies found the truck and other stolen items, but not the suspect.
On September 23, Hooks filed a report of a theft at his home that happened the day before. Hooks reported a Lincoln Aviator, several guns, and cash was stolen. He believed it was an employee or a former employee who committed the theft.
On September 24, the possible suspect wanted for stealing the truck and for the thefts at Hooks’ residence turned himself into the authorities. The suspect admitted to stealing the belongings from Hooks’ home, including a blue pouch that “contained a large amount of methamphetamine.”
Drug investigators took out a search warrant for Hooks’ home. It was granted at approximately 9:56 p.m. on September 24.
Drug investigators asked members of the Special Response Team execute the search warrant. The report states the team was to use a “slow and deliberate” method not “dynamic” and would “breach or force entry only if the occupants were non-complaint.”
The report states a deputy knocked loudly on the door and said “Sheriff’s Office, Search Warrant.” A witness claims hearing the deputy do this four times.
The deputy “made contact with a male resident who looked at him and immediately left the kitchen to go into another room.” Four SRT members then went into the home yelling “Sheriff’s Office, Search Warrant.” The report states the male resident was later identified as Hooks. Hooks came back into the kitchen “holding a black shotgun” and “raised and pointed [the gun] at SRT members as he walked toward him.” It adds a deputy “yelled, “Drop the gun. David Hooks did not drop the shot gun.” That’s when the four deputies fired shots at him.
Hooks was hit multiple times and fell to the floor. He was taken to the hospital for treatment.
According to the grand jury report, Hooks’ blood tested positive for amphetamine and methamphetamine. Investigators also determined Hooks’ shot gun had seven live rounds in the magazine. The crime lab determined the shot gun had not been assembled correctly “preventing a live round from being place in the chamber for firing.”
Hooks’ Family Statement
The Hooks’ family attorney, Mitch Shook, released a statement saying not all of the evidence was presented to the grand jury. He added Sheriff Harrell nor any law enforcement officers directly involved in the incident testified before the jurors.
Shook adds the grand jury was not told the test that reportedly shows methamphetamine in Hooks’ system was done during his autopsy and prior to his death, he was given “many different drugs to save his life.” Shook states the grand jury also didn’t know that Hooks was taking “prescription medication which will test positive for amphetamine and methamphetamine. These medications were in the home at the time the GBI searched the Hooks residence.”
Shook stated “we look forwarded to continuing our journey toward Justice for David Hooks.” The family attorney tells 41NBC he plans to file charges for the violation of Hooks’ civil rights in federal court.
The Hooks family claimed deputies did not follow protocol when they served their search warrant on September 24th. The sheriff’s office says Hooks was shot after he grabbed a gun and acted aggressively toward deputies.
More than 100 residents rallied last week in support of Hooks. They signed a petition asking for the case to be investigated as a felony murder.