Two Jackson County Sheriff's Deputies testified before a Grand Jury today about the shooting of John Michael Hearne. Hearne was shot by one of the deputies last August outside a convenience store in St. Martin. No charges have been filed in the case. It will be up to the Grand Jury to sort out whether what happened that day will result in charges against either of the deputies or Hearne.
Gunshots sounded early on the morning of August 22nd... startling many who live in the WIndsor Park subdivision.
"I was sleeping and all of a sudden it was like something hit the side of my house and I jumped out of bed," said a Windsor Park Resident one day after the shooting.
The shots came from Big B's Exxon on Washington Avenue. Minutes earlier, employees of the station found a man sleeping on the sidewalk near this pay phone. That man was John Michael Hearne. Deputy Michael Pol and Reserve Deputy Ricardo Gildelatorre responded to a call from the store manager. The manager said Hearne became confrontational when deputies tried to wake him.
"Mr. Hearne's actions forced an escalation of force to be used," said Adam Miller the attorney representing Gildalatorre. "Officer Pol used two non lethal forms of force... pepper spray and a baton... both of those unsuccessfully."
Attorney Adam Miller is representing Gildeatorre... and said the deputy had no choice but to fire on Hearne. Exactly what happened before that is less clear.
"All we want to know are the facts as to what happened and when we find out we'll certainly release that," said Sheriff Mike Byrd.
In the seven months since the shooting... none of those details have been released. Sheriff Mike The Jackson County Sheriff's Department can't discuss the case. The two deputies have only commented through their attorneys and the Hearne family hasn't talked. The silence has fueled speculation about whether the shooting was justified. George Shaddock, one of Hearne's attorneys, believes the answer is no.
"I think they used more force than was necessary," said Attorney George Shaddock who will represent Hearne should any criminal charges be filed against him. "I never heard of subduing someone who may have been intoxicated or may have been asleep by jabbing them in the ribs with a billy stick, pepper spraying them and then shooting them."
Attorney's representing the two deputies disagree.
"My client was forced to use his weapon and I think he did so properly and according to procedure," said Miller. "I think he was justified in the force he used."
The grand jury will decide whether any charges will be filed in relation to the shooting. District Attorney Tony Lawrence told WLOX News a report should be filed within the next three to four weeks.