Man Mistakes Alzheimer's Patient for Intruder, Kills Him
Police say charges are possible in Georgia incident
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 28, 2013 5:27 PM CST

(Newser) – Authorities in northwest Georgia say a man shot and killed a 72-year-old who he thought might be an intruder but turned out to be a wandering Alzheimer's patient. Walker County police told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that Ronald Westbrook had walked about 3 miles in the sub-freezing temperatures before knocking on Joe Hendrix's door just before 4am yesterday.

Hendrix's fiancee didn't answer, instead calling police. Sheriff Steve Wilson said before deputies arrived, Hendrix went into the backyard with his handgun, where he saw Westbrook in silhouette. Wilson says the 34-year-old Hendrix recalled giving Westbrook several verbal commands, but the advanced Alzheimer's patient didn't respond. Hendrix then fired four shots. Wilson says charges could be filed but says Hendrix didn't violate any laws by walking out into his own yard.

Copyright 2016 Newser, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.

More From Newser
My Take on This Story
To report an error on this story,
notify our editors.
Man Mistakes Alzheimer's Patient for Intruder, Kills Him is...
Show results without voting
You Might Like
Showing 3 of 139 comments
Nov 29, 2013 3:23 PM CST
... and all he had to do was go back inside his home. There was no aggression. The man walked toward him, and there was no danger. Police were already on the way. This is what is meant by "retreat if you safely can." He could have. Turn around, go back inside. Let the cops handle it. You want to know "why you should have to?" So YOUR grandfather doesn't get shot and killed by a guy who could have just as easily, and in perfect safety ... walked away. You have all the room you need if the guy tries to get inside. This was senseless.
Nov 29, 2013 2:14 PM CST
The fiancee had already called police, and they were on their way. The man was in the backyard not trying to get in the house. The home owner goes outside to confront the man, and because the man in the yard didn't speak or obey his verbal commands, he shoots him. I believe firmly in a person's right to defend themselves, but this was not defense. I'm the granddaughter of an Alzheimer's patient, and my grandfather was a wanderer. This disease is so cruel. Bright, alert, intelligent people are reduced to shells of their former self. He should have been watched. I know how hard it is to watch them. Grandpa was very quick. You would turn around and out the door he would go. That's when it was tim
Nov 29, 2013 12:02 PM CST
This is one thing severely lacking concerning proper gun ownership: teaching people when to use a gun... and when not to. Unfortunately, guns are a lot like alcohol, they can make people feel stronger than they should... leading to decisions resulting in deadly consequences. Guns are great in a lot of ways... but because they're extremely effective at killing people, they have to be treated with unwavering respect. There's a lot that can be done to reduce unintentional killings... but it isn't going to happen when some people do everything possible to stop any change, while whining about their mistaken perception of unlimited gun rights.