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Where was the gun? 911 call paints murky picture of officer-involved shooting
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In this screen grab made from a video provided to The Times via its Facebook page, Gainesville police officers can be seen approaching Adam English as he stands with his back to them on Sept. 20 just off Jesse Jewell Parkway. This image is less than a second before officers opened fire. Seven seconds earlier, a 911 caller reported that English had put the gun in the white bag that can be seen at his feet. Whether he actually did, or whether the officers were relayed this information is unclear.

When Gainesville police shot and killed Adam Paul English on Sept. 20, authorities said it was because he had been waving a gun around and failed to follow orders to drop it.

But the 911 tape, obtained by The Times on Thursday, Sept. 26, makes it unclear whether English was still holding the gun or had already put it in a bag at his feet when police opened fire.

According to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation press release issued the day after the shooting, "English was given verbal commands to drop weapon, but he did not comply with them. English was shot multiple times by two Gainesville Officers. Officers rendered aid and English was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. A gun was located at the scene."

But people speaking with a 911 operator seconds before the shooting said English had put the gun in a bag before police gunshots are heard on the tape. Whether he had actually done so, and whether police on scene had that information relayed to them, is unclear.

About this story

The Times was the first media on scene at the officer-involved shooting Sept. 20 in front of Northeast Georgia Physicians Group Surgical Associates that left Adam English, 21, dead and two officers on administrative leave. Reporter Nick Watson and News Editor Nate McCullough left the office after receiving a phone call about the incident and hearing the words “active shooter” on the police radio in the newsroom, which relays some law enforcement traffic, though not that of Gainesville Police. Gainesville Police began posting limited information on its social media channels and answered some preliminary questions but as the situation developed did not respond to additional questions. The GBI released additional information Saturday but declined to answer questions. The Times filed an open records request for the 911 calls and received those Thursday. The Times also has requested the initial incident report, but police have said it has not been completed. The Times is continuing to seek information about English and the incident.

On the latest podcast episode of Inside The Times, listen to Editor in Chief Shannon Casas, News Editor Nate McCullough and Reporter Nick Watson discuss the reporting of this story. Listen on your iOS device, Android device or here.

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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

A brief video provided to The Times appears to show the instant English was shot. In the video, English appears to be standing with his back to police and a white bag can be seen on the ground in front of him. The video was taken from such a distance that it is difficult to see whether English is holding anything. The Times has not been able to ascertain the name of the person who made the video.

A Times staff member on the scene Sept. 20 observed investigators taking photographs of the bag's contents, but when asked, police would not disclose what was inside.

911 calls reporting gunman in front of hospital

The Times requested and was provided the recordings of two 911 calls made during the incident on Sept. 20, 2019, near the Northeast Georgia Medical Center on Jesse Jewell Parkway in which 21-year-old Adam English was killed by Gainesville police.
The 911 calls

The incident began at 4:33 p.m. Friday, when hospital security got a call from a nurse in the surgical associates building asking for security to go to the building. Hospital security called the Gainesville Police Department and went to the surgical associates building. Within two minutes, doors at the surgical associates building were locked, hospital spokeswoman Beth Downs said. Hospital security also contacted Hall County.

At 4:40 p.m., a lockdown was initiated at the hospital’s emergency department, and security officers stood by hospital entrances, Downs said. 

According to the Hall County 911 center, two calls came in at 4:35 and 4:39 p.m. 

The Times was provided the tapes of two different 911 calls that together total 11 minutes and 32 seconds. 

In the first call, an NGHS operator relays information from a caller inside the surgical associates building to the 911 center.

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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

The call starts with a Northeast Georgia Health System employee saying they “got a call from one of our physicians’ groups indicating there’s a person waving a gun outside of the office.”

One of the office workers tells the 911 caller “she thinks she heard a gunshot about five minutes ago.”

Authorities have not disclosed whether English ever fired his weapon.

The call is at times chaotic, with the NGHS operator speaking with multiple people in the background while trying to relay information to the 911 call taker.

The address given by the caller is 1075 Jesse Jewell Parkway, and he repeatedly emphasizes that it's in front of Northeast Georgia Physicians’ Group Surgical Associates. However, the call taker repeatedly says that address shows as J&J Foods.

The westbound address is the grocery store, and the eastbound address is the hospital.

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Police work at the scene of an officer-involved shooting Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, at Jesse Jewell Parkway and Wisteria Drive in front of Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville. - photo by Nate McCullough

At approximately the 5-minute mark, the 911 operator relays to the caller that NGHS security is on the radio with police, and at the 5:12 mark she says "They have him at gunpoint." 

However, it is unclear if that is security or police or if anyone actually has English at gunpoint because at 8 minutes, 17 seconds, the person in the surgical office says, "He's standing on the curb, he's putting the gun in his bag, and it looks like he is about to walk away, so if they can get here, they need to hurry."

The NGHS operator then asks the 911 operator if she heard that, and she says "Got it, got it."

At approximately the 8:35 mark, someone in the background can be heard saying, "Gainesville is on the scene."

The NGHS operator can then be heard at the 8:43 mark saying "He's put the gun back in his pack."

Seven seconds later, numerous gunshots are heard.

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A police officer puts up crime-scene tape around the scene of an officer-involved shooting in Gainesville in front of Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. - photo by Nate McCullough

The second call is brief, in which someone reports a gunman and the 911 operator says police are on their way.

The Times sent a list of questions to Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish regarding the 911 call, particularly about where the gun was at the time of the shooting and what officers knew at the time.

“These are all very important questions. Determining the answers to these questions, and more importantly, clearly determining what happened is our number (one) priority. That is why I immediately requested the experts at the GBI to conduct an independent investigation. To respect the integrity of the investigation, I cannot answer specifics about the case until the GBI has concluded their investigation and it has been reviewed by the District Attorney. This is normal protocol in an officer involved shooting. We know that you and the community have many questions regarding the incident. These will be answered in due time as the investigation continues. We appreciate the community’s support as we all deal with this incident,” Parrish wrote in an email.

GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said no further information would be released after being sent the same list of questions from The Times regarding the 911 call.

The body camera footage was also not released, with officials citing the ongoing investigation.

The Times has learned the names of the officers who fired their weapons.

A report known as a face sheet for the GBI investigation was released Thursday, Sept. 26, that said officers Jonathan Fowler and Jose Hernandez fired. 

Gainesville Police spokesman said both are patrol officers. Fowler has served for a year, while Hernandez has served four years.

A total of five officers can be seen approaching English in the video provided to The Times.

Reporter Megan Reed and News Editor Nate McCullough contributed to this report.

Items are strewn across the ground at the scene of a shooting in front of the Northeast Georgia Physicians Group Surgical Associates office at Jesse Jewell Parkway and Wisteria Drive. - photo by Nate McCullough