As Westbrook is laid to rest, coalition pushes for federal lawsu - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

As Westbrook is laid to rest, coalition pushes for federal lawsuit

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CHICKAMAUGA, GA (WRCB) -

A national organization is pushing for the family of a local Alzheimer's patient to sue the state of Georgia over the state's "Stand Your Ground" law.

The funeral for 72-year-old Ronald Westbrook is Tuesday but the investigation into his death is far from over.

It happened last Wednesday after Westbrook wandered three miles from his Chickamauga home. Around 4 o'clock in the morning he started ringing the doorbell and tried to open the door at a home on Cottage Crest Court. Investigators say 34-year-old Joe Hendrix confronted Westbrook in the yard thinking he was a prowler and shot him. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has officially ruled Westbrook's death as a homicide, but so far no charges have been filed against Hendrix.
 
In the meantime, the family's pastor says now is the time to focus on the legacy Westbrook leaves behind. Now his friends and loved ones are trying to move past this tragedy by honoring his life.

"He was a very kind man, a very benevolent man," says Pastor Frank Kelley at Oakwood Baptist Church.

Though the grips of Alzheimer's disease invaded the last two years of Ronald Westbrook's life, friends and family say he will have a lasting legacy in his community.

"He was a gifted, talented guy, that's going to be missed greatly."

Pastor Frank Kelley says Ronald Westbrook was a renaissance man. A lifelong resident of North Georgia, Westbrook was a graduate of Rossville High School and UTC.

"He was also a very intelligent man. He was a retired lieutenant colonel for the United States Air Force," says Kelley.

Westbrook served 33 years in the Air Force. He was past commander of the 241st EIS Squadron at Lovell Field. He also managed Barwick Airport in Lafayette, where he was a certified pilot and flight instructor. On top of that, he worked more than 20 years as an engineer for TVA. And on Sundays, he would lend his musical talents, playing trumpet for the orchestra at Oakwood Baptist Church in Chickamauga.

"Most importantly he was just a great family man. He was a dad, a grandfather, a husband. He was just a very nice man to be around and he loved to serve other people," says Kelley.

Kelley says now those closest to him are trying to find peace.

"I think the most difficult part is just the suddenness. It was just unexpected. The family, their faith is keeping them together and they're just a very strong, close family."

He says even though his loss is hard to understand,  it is Westbrook's love of family and community that will live on.

"For us this really doesn't make sense, but for God, He can make sense out of it. I think one of the texts I'm going to use is in Romans 8:28, "For all things work together for good for those who love God." What happened here is not good but that somehow, God will make good come out of it," says Kelley.

Jesse Jackson's 'Rainbow Push Coalition' says it plans to ask Westbrook's family to join a federal lawsuit to strike down Georgia's Stand Your Ground law. The district attorney is reviewing if the law pertains to this case.

Channel 3 has made attempts to contact Joe Hendrix but have not heard back.

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