Shooting of Georgia Alzheimer’s Patient Reignites Stand Your Ground Debate

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A Georgia homeowner who shot and killed a 72-year-old man he thought was an intruder has reignited debate over controversial “stand your ground” laws.

A week after the slaying, a Georgia sheriff’s department is debating whether to take legal action in a case where one of the scrutinized self-defense laws may play a role in the prosecutor’s decision. Georgia’s “stand your ground” law dates back to 2006, and states that a person has no duty to retreat and can use deadly force if there is reason to believe their lives or property are endangered.

Local police said Ronald Westbrook, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, was lost and confused when he stepped onto Joe Hendrix’s porch and jiggled his door knob  just before 4 a.m. on Nov. 27. Hendrix, 34, was asleep in the house when Westbrook came knocking. Hendrix stepped onto his front lawn with a .40 caliber Glock pistol in his hand.

Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said that Hendrix “gave verbal commands. He yelled, ‘Who are you? What are you doing here?’” When Walker didn’t respond, Hendrix fired four shots. One hit Westbrook in the torso and killed him, Wilson said.

Unlike other recent cases that also sparked a nationwide debate on stand your ground laws — like in Detroit when a white man shot a young black woman on his porch and the closely scrutinized Trayvon Martin case in Florida last year — this one is void of racial overtones, as both men were white.