“Show me your hands! Do it now!”
Those were the last words Adam English may have heard Sept. 20, 2019, before taking three gunshots into his leg and back and succumbing to those injuries at the nearby hospital shortly after.
Exactly what happened the day English died on the side of Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville is captured only in bits and pieces.
With their guns drawn, a group of five officers approached the man, who had reportedly been waving a gun outside the Northeast Georgia Physicians’ Group Surgical Associates building.
Only two Gainesville Police officers approaching English — Jonathan Fowler and Christopher Witt — had body cameras that captured the moments before the shooting.
Roughly eight seconds pass on Fowler’s video and 18 seconds on Witt’s video before gunshots ring out on Jesse Jewell Parkway.
Officer Jose Hernandez didn’t turn his camera on until after the shooting.
Several employees at NGPG heard or saw something. The GBI interviewed several witnesses at or near the scene. These are the perspectives of some of the key officers involved and witnesses to the incident.
The gun and the bag: A series
This article is part three 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.
Officer Jose Hernandez
Hernandez told GBI agents that English initially was complying with commands, showing his left hand and carrying a bag in his right hand.
Hernandez said English began lowering the bag in his right hand to the ground, letting go of the bag and moving his right hand to his hip.
The Times made multiple requests this past week to speak with Hernandez through his attorney, Sun Choy, but those requests were not returned.
Officer Jonathan Fowler
Fowler told the GBI that English was bent over with his “hand in a bag and was bladed off to them where they could not see his opposite arm and hand.”
“The subject stood up slowly and Fowler could see that he had nothing in his hands. All the officers then began to tell the suspect to put his hands above his head. The subject then put his right hand behind his back and continued to stare at the officers and continued to be in a bladed off position.” The bodycam video shows how English was perpendicular to the officers, with only his left arm clearly visible.
The GBI agents noted from Fowler’s video that there “appeared to be a slight movement of English’s right hand just prior to or as the shots were fired.”
The Times made multiple requests to speak with Fowler through his attorney, Frances Clay, but Clay declined the request.
WARNING, VIOLENT CONTENT: Officer Jonathan Fowler bodycam footageWARNING, VIOLENT CONTENT: This footage from Gainesville Police Officer Jonathan Fowler's body camera depicts Adam English being struck by officers' bullets. It has been edited to include just the first 30 seconds of the more than 18-minute footage. The Times is providing this footage in the interest of the public's right to know what happened during the incident involving police and a man who moments before had been reportedly waving a gun in a medical office parking lot.
Officer Chris Witt
Officer Chris Witt told a GBI agent “the individual began to reach for a bag after being given verbal commands to show his hands,” according to the GBI report. “As the individual was reaching for the bag, Fowler and Hernandez shot the individual.”
The version of events changed when Witt was interviewed an hour after the initial conversation with the GBI agent.
Later he said he saw English’s right hand tucked down by his right side and he told English to show his hands.
Witt said English leaned over and reached into the bag. Witt told English to show his hands, and English raised up from being bent over the bag. By the time Witt reaches English, his bodycam footage shows the man standing.
English placed his right hand near his pocket or waistband, his body “bladed” so that officers could not see his right side, according to Witt’s interview.
Witt said English did not comply with the officers’ repeated commands to show his hands.
“The subject then started to turn back towards the officers at which time Hernandez shot the individual,” according to Witt’s interview.
In Witt’s video, dispatch officers can be heard before the shooting telling officers that English “now put the gun in a bag” and the police officers tell English to put the bag down.
“The hospital dispatch appeared to say something to the security officers that they were advised that he possibly had the gun back in a bag,” according to the GBI report. “Approximately one second after this it was said that multiple shots were fired in rapid succession by the officers.”
Witt told the GBI he had a “gut feeling” that English would attack the officers.
He said English’s demeanor was “off” and he had a “dead stare.” He described the incident as a “life threatening situation.”
Witt said he did not shoot because English had already been shot and was going to the ground by the time Witt got ready to fire.
WARNING, VIOLENT CONTENT: Officer Chris Witt's bodycam footageWARNING, VIOLENT CONTENT: This footage from Gainesville Police Officer Chris Witt's body camera depicts Adam English being struck by officers' bullets. It has been edited to include just the first 30 seconds of the more than 10-minute footage. The Times is providing this footage in the interest of the public's right to know what happened during the incident involving police and a man who moments before had been reportedly waving a gun in a medical office parking lot.
NGHS security guard
Northeast Georgia Health System security guard Anthony Shows told GBI agents that English took a step back with his left foot and “squared up” to the officers before he was shot and “went to reach into one of his bags at the time the shots were fired.”
The security guard had a body camera on at the time, but the camera malfunctioned, according to the GBI’s report. Witt’s and Fowler’s bodycam footage do not show English squaring up to officers or reaching into a bag in the moments before he was shot.
The Times reached out to NGHS officials to speak with the security team there, but no one was made available.
Those inside the NGPG office had seen English waving the gun, but administrator Rachel Bushart, who had called hospital security, told the GBI she did not see a gun drop when English fell to the ground. Bushart said there was no video surveillance at the doctor’s office.
“The only time that she did not see a gun in the subject’s hand was when he was shot and his hands flew up before he fell to the ground,” according to the GBI report.