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Editorial board: We support policing profession, and that demands properly investigating officers involved in deadly incidents
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Police work at the scene of an officer-involved shooting at Jesse Jewell Parkway and Wisteria Drive in front of Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. - photo by Nate McCullough

On Sept. 20, Gainesville police officers responding to a call of a man with a gun near the hospital found themselves in the unenviable position of having to make a life-or-death decision in a matter of seconds. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says two officers fired upon the 21-year-old suspect, who ultimately died.

A statement from the GBI issued the day after the shooting said officers ordered Adam Paul English to drop his weapon and then fired upon him when he failed to comply with the command. The GBI continues to investigate the case and there has been no indication when a final report of its findings is expected.

The Times on Thursday obtained a tape of the 911 call related to the incident that revealed a woman who claimed to be watching the events as they unfolded told a 911 dispatcher that the man had put down his gun prior to the police firing shots.

The two versions of what happened are in conflict, and at this point we do not know which is correct. Or if both are correct. Hopefully, body camera footage and evidence from all those involved will provide a definitive indication of what transpired.

Until more evidence is evaluated and the results are provided for public review, none of us know for sure what happened, and there is nothing to be gained by the sort of speculation and gossip that always seem to accompany such instances.

There are some things we do know and it’s our responsibility to share those things with our readers.

The Times editorial board

Staff members

  • Norman Baggs, general manager
  • Shannon Casas, editor in chief

Community members

  • Cheryl Brown
  • David George
  • Mandy Harris
  • Brent Hoffman
  • J.C. Smith
  • Tom Vivelo

We do know that officers of the law put their lives on the line every day for those they serve, and if their actions on Sept. 20 are supported by the facts they should be fully exonerated and returned to duty. The taking of a human life, regardless of the circumstances, is a heavy burden for anyone to carry.

We also know that the public has a right to a full and thorough investigation of the events surrounding the death. 

And we know that in the end, findings of any investigation are likely to prove satisfactory to some, and not so to others, depending on their perspective.

As a newspaper, our role is to provide the public with whatever credible information we can so that our readers can best understand what transpired on that sidewalk near the hospital just over a week ago. That job begins the day of the incident and continues throughout the investigation as we eventually gain access to what the GBI learns and ultimately the district attorney decides how to handle the case.

In providing that information, it is not our intent to cast unfounded aspersion upon the police, nor upon the man who lost his life. It is our job to report the facts that we find and can corroborate, so that others may form their own educated opinions.

There are those who think we are anti-police if we do not accept the law enforcement version of events without question or challenge. Similarly, there are those who think we are nothing more than spokesmen for the police if we only echo what we are told by law enforcement.

We work with police departments and individual officers every day and have great respect for the job they do. We can’t imagine the burden of responsibility that is inherent in a job where split-second decisions can have life or death implications.

We know all too well that our community mourned the violent death of an officer just a few short weeks ago, and can only imagine how that incident might affect any armed confrontation.

We also know that putting on a uniform and taking an oath does not make any officer infallible. So we have to look to be sure the right thing is done, regardless of our perspective on the profession as a whole.

It is too soon for anyone to have a definitive idea of what happened Sept. 20. It is human nature to make assumptions and to speculate, but until more data is gathered and shared, no one other than those personally involved can know exactly what happened.

We are anxious to learn more, and hope for a speedy resolution of the GBI’s probe.

As a newspaper, we strive to provide you with facts upon which you can form an intelligent opinion. Until more of those facts are available for public consumption, the only thing we know for sure is that what happened was tragic.

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