Adam English kept on smiling even in the toughest times, his aunt Stormy Russell said. There isn't a day that goes by in the two years since English was shot and killed by police in Gainesville that Russell doesn't think of that smile, she said.
"He had dreams and goals just as any other young man, and he is loved and missed more than any words can express," she said.
English was shot Sept. 20, 2019, outside of the Northeast Georgia Physicians Group Surgical Associates building on Jesse Jewell Parkway. Reports to 911 indicated he was waving a gun. Police shot him shortly after they arrived on scene.
The gun and the bag: A series
This article is part one of a six-part series telling the story of Adam English, who on Sept. 20, 2019, was shot and killed by police outside a medical office on a busy thoroughfare in Gainesville after reports he was waving a gun around. The Times provided coverage as the story unfolded. When the case was closed, the investigative files became available under open records laws, and The Times paid $289.36 to obtain the records, including interviews, bodycam footage and photos. This series is an effort to more fully tell what happened on the side of Jesse Jewell Parkway that day.
Russell remembers her nephew as a giving, humble and kind person with a passion for singing and writing music.
"He liked to make people laugh and always had a smile on his face even when going through tough times," she said.
English’s tough times included issues with drugs.
His family told a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent investigating the shooting that English had "serious drug problems and was essentially homeless."
"English's mother said he had mental health issues primarily when using drugs," according to the GBI report obtained by The Times. "His family wanted him in programs to deal with the drug problems but he wouldn't stay in them."
English’s parents told the GBI their son was “suicidal when he was on drugs.”
The Times reached out to attorneys representing the family, and the family declined being interviewed.
A year after the incident, English’s mother gave a statement to The Times.
“Those of us that knew Adam best, always seen him with a smile on his face and a lot of love in his heart,” Laura King wrote in an email. “He is deeply missed, and it’s so sad that he’ll never experience meeting his first true love and getting married or having children of his own and knowing the joy that brings.”
In investigating the shooting, the GBI agents also reviewed police reports concerning English in the three years preceding the incident, including when English was charged with terroristic threats and acts in May 2016. According to the report, English was banging on the door to his stepfather’s room and threatening to stab him.
English was also charged with possession of methamphetamine in July 2017 and was identified as a participant in a motor vehicle theft, according to the GBI report.
English’s friends, in the weeks after the shooting, described him as a “beautiful soul” who they believe did not want to cause anyone harm.
The Times spoke with several friends shortly after the shooting.
Dalton Watkins lived with English for a few years and had known the man since his early teenage years when they played football together in their neighborhood. English had become more like a brother to him, Watkins said.
“If he had a gun, I don’t feel like he would go out and hurt nobody. We had big arguments and he not one time wanted to put his hands on me or any of that. He’s not that type of person,” Watkins said.
But English didn’t seem like himself recently, he said at the time.
“It just seems like he was not really giving up, but it was like he was losing hope,” Watkins said.
Angela Hicks, who knew English through his cousin, said English could “always put on a smile on his face and everything no matter what he was going through.”
Crystal Martinez, who lived next door to English for a while, described him as “a big teddy bear” who was very outgoing and always willing to help somebody.
“I just know he was a good person. He had a drug problem just like a lot of people do,” Martinez said.