UPDATE: Alzheimer's patient shot to death in Chickamauga, mistaken for prowler
The Walker County Sheriff's Office is investigating after an elderly man was shot and killed outside a Chickamauga home. Police say the victim, 72-year-old Ronald Westbrook had Alzheimer's. He had been walking around in the cold for about four hours with his dog and apparently went to the wrong house.
The 911 call came in just before 4-o'clock Wednesday morning from a home on Cottage Crest Court. Investigators say 34-year-old Joe Hendrix of Ooltewah shot Westbrook who had been walking around the outside of the home for several minutes and repeatedly ringing the doorbell.
"He had traveled about two point six miles from his home to the shooting location by foot with a wind chill of about 20 degrees, very loosely clothed with his 2 dogs," says Sheriff Steve Wilson.
Sheriff Wilson says 72-year-old Ronald Westbrook was most likely trying to find his way home, when he saw the porch light on at the home on College Crest Court. He repeatedly rang the doorbell, jiggled the knob and started wandering around the outside of the house.
Thirty-four-year-old Joe Hendrix was staying at the house with his fiance. She called 911. About 10 minutes into the call, unbeknownst to the dispatcher, Hendrix grabbed his .40 caliber gun, and went outside to check the property. He spotted Westbrook, telling investigators he could only see his silhouette.
"He gave several, what he described as verbal commands," says Sheriff Wilson.
After Westbrook did not respond and move toward him, Hendrix fired four shots.
"One of the shots struck the victim in the chest."
Wilson says at this point, there is no indication Hendrix violated any laws.
"There's no doubt in our mind that Mr. Hendrix and his fiance felt threatened this morning," says Wilson.
But Wilson says in his opinion, if the dispatcher had known Hendrix was going to leave the home, they would have told him to stop.
"I believe he should have stayed inside the home," says Wilson.
Wilson, who knows Westbrook and his family, says this is a tough investigation.
"We're all saddened that this has happened. Certainly saddened that Mr. Westbrook lost his life and was probably not aware of what was actually happening."
Sheriff Wilson says Mr. Hendrix has been very cooperative with investigators and says at this point, he is not facing any charges. Wilson also emphasizes, this is still an open investigation.