Suspect in Ga. officer’s slaying expresses regrets
ATHENS, Ga (AP) – A man charged in the slaying of a Georgia police officer and who allegedly held nine hostages at an Athens home days later told a television news crew that he had regrets about what happened.
As Jamie Hood was being taken into custody late Friday, he told WXIA-TV reporter Doug Richards in a brief interview, “I regret killing that officer.” The NBC affiliate in Atlanta aired the interview Saturday night.
When Richards asked him what he meant, a handcuffed Hood said, “That officer. That innocent officer. I regret that. He didn’t deserve that.”
Asked why he did it, Hood said, “You know, they killed my brother. They were going to kill me.”
The 33-year-old Hood was being held Saturday without bond on murder and other charges at the Hall County jail. He is charged with fatally shooting Athens-Clarke County police officer Elmer “Buddy” Christian and wounding another officer on Tuesday.
Hood’s brother was killed by an Athens police officer in 2001 while Hood was serving a prison sentence for armed robbery.
Meanwhile, police said Saturday they are trying to determine how long Hood had been staying at an Athens apartment where he allegedly held the hostages Friday night before agreeing to surrender on the condition that it was broadcast on live TV news.
Athens police Capt. Clarence Holeman said Saturday evening that authorities were continuing to investigate the circumstances of the standoff, including any relationships between Hood and the hostages.
“We’re just trying to get to the bottom of how it happened,” Holeman said. None of the hostages has been charged with any crimes, he said.
One hostage almost seemed to defend Hood early Saturday, raising questions about whether the convicted felon and murder suspect knew some of the people whom police have said were hostages.
“Jamie didn’t do no harm to none of us,” Quinton Riden, one of the hostages, said outside the Athens-Clarke County police station after being questioned by police. “He treated us like family.”
The manhunt for Hood came to a dramatic close around 11:15 p.m. Friday when he walked out of an apartment complex shirtless and surrounded by five of the nine adults and children that had been held captive for hours as he negotiated with federal, state and local authorities. They walked out in a single file, arms in the air. The hostages were then questioned by police.
“I just thank God it’s all over,” said Jennifer Hood, the suspect’s sister, on Saturday. “It’s finally over.”
The tattooed, head-shaven Hood was immediately swarmed by tactical officers in green fatigues and wielding high-powered guns, patting him down and ordering him to the ground. He did not resist.
“He was convinced he was going to be killed by law enforcement,” said Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan, who an hour earlier had gone before TV cameras to promise Hood that he would not be harmed if he turned himself in and freed the hostages.
Hood was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 1997 for armed robbery and was released in 2009. In 2001, while Hood was serving time, his 22-year-old brother Timothy Hood was shot and killed by an Athens police officer. Investigators said at the time that Timothy Hood pulled a gun on an officer and was shot when the weapon jammed.
Keenan said Hood insisted that his surrender be broadcast live by a news camera crew to ensure he was not harmed. WXIA-TV served as the pool camera crew.
Investigators said they believe Hood was using cocaine on Friday.
An initial court hearing for Hood had not been set by Saturday afternoon. His defense attorney, Jim Smith, did not return a message seeking comment Saturday.
Authorities said the nine hostages included a toddler, an infant and a 13-year-old girl. None appeared to be hurt. Holeman said Hood was armed during the standoff, but he would not release additional details.
Police had been searching for Hood since Tuesday, when Christian was shot and killed.
Officers had stopped Hood while he was in an SUV in West Athens around 1 p.m. Tuesday, seeking to question him in connection with a carjacking and kidnapping. The vehicle’s driver was arrested, but police say Hood got out of the vehicle and shot another officer, Tony Howard, in the face and upper body. Hood then fatally shot Christian as he sat in the patrol car, authorities said. Howard is recovering.
The manhunt led authorities to several locations around Athens-Clarke County, about 75 miles northeast of Atlanta, as they received a flurry of tips about where he might be hiding. Officers descended on an area in east Athens, surrounding an apartment complex and barricading nearby roads.
As the search intensified, Hood reached out to police around 3:40 p.m. Friday and asked to talk to authorities about surrendering, Keenan said. He told police he was afraid for his life and that he would harm the hostages if his demands were not met, Keenan said.
Hood declined to answer a TV reporter’s question whether he had threatened to harm people in the apartment Friday.
After hours of negotiations, Hood agreed around 9 p.m. to free four hostages.
Former University of Georgia football player Bryant Gantt, who knew Hood in passing, said he had posted a message on his Facebook page offering to help. As police closed in, friends put Gantt in touch with Hood by telephone. The former football player told WSB-TV that he helped FBI negotiators talk with the suspect.
“It was up and down, you know,” Gantt said. “He was scared. You finally could tell that he was scared of the whole situation. He was ready to get it over with. He was tired, he was worn out.”
Jennifer Hood said that her brother coached a children’s football team and played sports in high school, and that he never missed a family event. She said he came to her house Tuesday morning, hours before the shooting, but she was in the shower and he left before she could see him.
“I wish there had been something I could have said or done,” she said.
Police are expecting thousands of people to attend Sunday’s funeral for Christian, who was an 8-year veteran of the Athens police department. Christian, 34, was married with two young children.
Associated Press Writers Greg Bluestein and Ray Henry in Atlanta contributed to this report.