ATLANTA — The girlfriend of the man who mistakenly shot and killed a disoriented Alzheimer’s patient in North Georgia warned her boyfriend that the stranger appeared to be an old man, she told investigators.

A local prosecutor decided last week not to press criminal charges against Joe Hendrix for fatally shooting 72-year-old Ronald Westbrook in the early morning of Nov. 27.

Westbrook slipped unnoticed from the home he shared with his wife as early as 1 a.m., taking his dogs with him. He was spotted wandering in the cold, apparently confused, before reaching the woman’s rented home on a rural cul-de-sac, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The then-girlfriend told investigators that she heard a dog in her home pacing on the hardwood floors. District Attorney Herbert “Buzz” Franklin identified the woman as Terri Huskey. She and Hendrix are no longer in a relationship.

When she looked outside, she saw a man – later identified as Westbrook – with several dogs, according to a transcript of her interview with police the day of the shooting. She assumed the stranger was just walking his dogs and checked that her door was locked. Westbrook eventually started ringing the doorbell and attempted to open the door, both witnesses said.

She gave mixed signals about whether she felt threatened by the man. During an interview just hours after the shooting, she acknowledged that she was scared by the unknown intruder. However, the woman also considered other possibilities.


“I thought he was just confused where he was,” she said.

On Dec. 5, she spoke again to detectives. Once alerted to the man, Hendrix quickly went into the bedroom to get a .40-caliber handgun he kept there.

“He was going to get his gun and I said Joe he’s like … a 70-year-old man, you know I didn’t think it was a big, that big of a deal …”

Investigators asked whether the woman communicated her thought to Hendrix. She said she did.

Hendrix told the woman to call 911, and the couple retreated to a bathroom while the woman continued speaking by phone with a police dispatcher. When Hendrix learned an officer would need five minutes to get the house, he went outside.

The woman said she heard shouting from outside, then three or four gunshots. Hendrix came back inside, grabbed the phone and told police that he had shot the unknown man.

Franklin, the prosecutor, said it was unclear whether Hendrix heard his then-girlfriend’s comment.

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