Suspect in Georgia officer’s death surrenders
ATHENS, Ga.—The man charged in the shooting death of a Georgia police officer surrendered on live TV late Friday after he emerged from an Athens apartment with five people whom police say he had been holding captive.
Jamie Hood, 33, walked out shirtless and with five other people including a 13-year-old girl, all holding their hands in the air. Officers in green fatigues wielding high-powered guns swarmed Hood, patted him down and ordered him to the ground. The tattooed, head-shaven Hood was not armed and did not resist police.
Hood turned himself in after Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan went before TV cameras and promised that Hood wouldn’t be hurt if he gave himself up unarmed and freed the remaining hostages. Hood agreed to surrender, but insisted that it be broadcast live by a news camera crew to ensure he was not harmed.
Investigators said they believe Hood was using cocaine on Friday and that he was armed during the standoff, Keenan said.
Police had been searching for Hood since Tuesday, when Athens Clarke-County police officer Elmer “Buddy” Christian was shot and killed while police say he attempted to apprehend Hood. Another officer, Tony Howard, was shot in the face and upper body, and is recovering from his wounds.
Hood’s family members and residents from area neighborhoods gathered to watch the hostage situation unfold at a media encampment at a church parking lot near the apartment complex.
Hood’s relatives cried and hugged when they saw on TV that he had emerged peacefully. “I’m just very sorry this all had to happen,” said Hood’s sister, Jennifer Hood.
The people who emerged with Hood were led away by officers and were questioned, Keenan said at a news briefing. In addition to the 13-year-old girl, the nine hostages included a toddler and an infant, he said. None of the hostages appeared to be injured, Keenan said, and investigators were seeking to determine how Hood knew them.
Quinton Riden, one of the hostages, said Hood didn’t threaten them or treat them badly during the ordeal. He said he and Hood are acquaintances. “Jamie didn’t do no harm to none of us,” Riden said outside the Athens-Clarke County police station after being questioned by police. “He treated us like family.”
The four-day manhunt led authorities to a range of locations around Athens-Clarke County as they received a flurry of tips about where he might be hiding. Officers descended on an area in east Athens, surrounding an apartment complex and barricading nearby roads.
As the search intensified, Hood reached out to police around 3:40 p.m. on Friday and asked to talk to authorities about surrendering, Keenan said. He told police he was afraid for his life and that he would injure the hostages if his demands were not met, Keenan said.
After hours of negotiations, Hood agreed around 9 p.m. to give up what police said were four hostages, which authorities saw as a promising sign. Initial reports were that he had eight hostages. The rest were freed about two hours later.
Authorities said police had stopped Hood while he was in an SUV in West Athens around 1 p.m. Tuesday, seeking to question him in connection with a carjacking and kidnapping.
The vehicle’s driver was arrested, but police say Hood got out of the vehicle and shot and wounded Howard, striking him in the face and the upper body. He then fatally shot Christian while he was still sitting in his patrol car, authorities said.
Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Joseph Lumpkin called the shooting a police ambush. Lumpkin said this week he hoped a $50,000 reward would inspire someone to come forward, calling Hood a “career criminal” who has associates in the city’s murky criminal world.
Police are expecting thousands of people to attend Sunday’s funeral for Christian, who was an 8-year veteran of the Athens police department. Christian, 34, was married with two young children.
Friday evening, a crowd of residents and onlookers gathered at a nearby church and gas station to monitor the hostage situation. Several of Hood’s relatives waited for updates and prayed it would end without bloodshed.
Hood was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 1997 on armed robbery charges and was released in 2009. In 2001, while Hood was serving time, his 22-year-old brother Timothy Hood was shot and killed by an Athens police officer. Investigators said at the time that Timothy Hood pulled a gun on an officer, and was shot and killed when the weapon jammed.
Television cameras trained at the apartment’s door showed him emerging along with the hostages around 11:15 p.m. He was later led to a police car, where TV cameras showed him calmly talking to someone.
Jennifer Hood said her brother coached a children’s football team and played sports in high school, and that he never missed a family event. She said he came to her house Tuesday morning, hours before the shooting, but she was in the shower and he left before she could see him.
“I wish there had been something I could have said or done,” she said.