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THE GUN AND THE BAG, part 4: After the police shooting, 'his gun's right here'
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Medical equipment and other items litter the ground where a man was shot by Gainesville police officers Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. - photo by Nate McCullough

This article is part four of a six-part series. Readers can start with part one.

When Adam English fell to the ground, shot by Gainesville Police officers Sept. 20, 2019, there was no gun in his hand.

He had been waving one outside of Northeast Georgia Physicians’ Group Surgical Associates office in Gainesville that day, according to those who called 911 and later spoke with the GBI.

One of the officers who shot English is seen handcuffing him after the shooting, as other officers start providing CPR and other medical treatment. English was later transported to the nearby hospital where he died.

The gun and the bag: A series

This article is part four 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.

One officer can be heard on body camera footage saying, "His gun's right here in the bag," immediately after English is handcuffed.

After the shooting, Gainesville Police Officer Chris Witt told a GBI agent a firearm was found in a bag beside English.

“He saw the firearm sitting on top of some items in the bag after the individual was placed in handcuffs,” according to Witt’s interview with the GBI.

After the shooting, Officer Jonathan Fowler told the GBI he did not see any other guns lying around. Officer Jose Hernandez also said he never saw English’s gun after the shooting but “later heard that a gun was located” near English.

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An investigator photographs the contents of a bag at the scene of an officer-involved shooting Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in which Adam English died. - photo by Nate McCullough
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In this photo obtained by The Times through an open records request with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, a .38 caliber handgun can be seen inside the bag that was at Adam English's feet when he was shot by Gainesville police officers on Sept. 20, 2019.

A Gainesville Fire Department captain at the scene also said he did not remember seeing any gun there that may have belonged to English.

GBI special agent Elaina Coffee Honea searched the bag and found a .38 caliber revolver inside a black holster.

A .38 caliber cartridge was found in the grass west of the parking lot entrance, and a spent casing was found in the parking lot entrance. Eight 9 mm casings were also collected, the type shot from police guns.

An autopsy showed there was one gunshot wound on the back of the left leg below English’s buttocks that had no corresponding exit wound. Another gunshot entered on English’s left back, which cut across his spinal cord and caused extensive hemorrhaging. 

The final wound, a buckshot shotgun wound to the torso, had six entrance wounds on the left upper back. The shots entered English’s chest cavity and caused multiple perforations of both lungs and the aorta, the largest artery of the body.

All of the gunshot wounds are from the back of the body to the front. The autopsy also noted that English tested positive for methamphetamine and a trace amount of amphetamine

Officers Fowler and Hernandez both fired their weapons at English, and both are no longer with the department. 

A GBI agent met with Fowler and Hernandez three hours after the shooting Sept. 20, but their interviews were delayed until Sept. 24-25, 2019.

When asked about protocols concerning interviewing officers, GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said an “officer-involved shooting” investigation is considered a criminal investigation.

“As in all criminal investigations, the involved parties have the right to speak to law enforcement or to choose not to speak,” Miles wrote in an email. “They also have the right to legal representation.” 

Lt. Kevin Holbrook told the GBI he could not see English’s right side “but could see that his right arm was down.” He also noted that English kept looking down at the bag next to him.

Holbrook said he did not shoot because he couldn’t see English’s right side.

“(Lt.) Holbrook was not sure what other officers saw at the time, but (Lt.) Holbrook did not see a gun in English’s hand,” according to the GBI report.

Officer Nick Smith said he was “not aware of anyone coming in contact with English’s firearm,” according to the GBI report.

“Officer Smith did see a black handled silver revolver in a black holster laying on the ground next to English after the shooting,” according to the GBI report.

Both Hernandez and Fowler were on administrative leave from Sept. 21, 2019, through Oct. 4, 2019. 

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Then Gainesville Police officer Jose Hernandez appears in a photo shortly after Adam English was shot Sept. 20, 2019, by Hernandez and officer Jonathan Fowler. This photo was obtained as part of an open records request with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

“Upon returning to work, Officer Hernandez did not immediately return to patrol work and was initially tasked with fulfilling duties at the office and not in the field,” Gainesville spokeswoman Christina Santee previously told The Times

Hernandez resigned on Dec. 4, 2019, and his departure was “considered a voluntary resignation,” according to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation report. Police told the GBI that Hernandez was going to work at another law enforcement agency.

Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council records custodian Jill Dalon said Hernandez started with the Barrow County Sheriff’s Office Jan. 6, 2020.

The Times made multiple requests to speak with Hernandez through his attorney, Sun Choy, but those requests were not returned.

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Then Gainesville Police officer Jonathan Fowler appears in a photo shortly after Adam English was shot Sept. 20, 2019, by Fowler and officer Jose Hernandez. This photo was obtained as part of an open records request with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Fowler, meanwhile, stayed with the department another year.

In interviews a year after the incident, police said Fowler had 80 hours of training in 2020 concerning use of force and de-escalation. 

Chief Jay Parrish previously told The Times the average officer was getting anywhere from five to 10 hours of training on de-escalation each year at that time, a number he wanted to increase. 

Fowler resigned in lieu of termination Dec. 29, 2020, he said in a deposition for an ongoing civil lawsuit brought by English’s parents and estate.

Gainesville Police Lt. Kevin Holbrook confirmed Fowler’s departure but did not comment further on the circumstances surrounding his resignation.

The Times made multiple requests to speak with Fowler through his attorney, Frances Clay, but Clay declined the request.

Two days after Fowler resigned, and more than a year after the initial incident, Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh declined to bring charges against the two officers. In a letter announcing his decision to the GBI, Darragh said he felt the evidence would not lead to a conviction.

Fowler is now under investigation with the standards and training council, Dalon said. She did not say what the subject of the investigation is.

English’s parents and his estate filed a lawsuit in June 2020 against the city of Gainesville and the two officers involved.

Continue to part five of this series.

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The scene where Adam English was shot by police Sept. 20, 2019, after reports he was waving a gun around in the parking lot of Northeast Georgia Physicians Group Surgical Associates on Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville. This photo was obtained as part of an open records request with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.