Macon Telegraph, GA
It all happened in a matter of seconds.
Based on discussions with his deputies at the scene, Bibb County Sheriff Jerry Modena said Friday that there was little his officers could have done differently during the raid that led to the death of deputy Joseph Whitehead early Thursday.
Whitehead was part of a team of deputies that stormed into a house at 3135 Atherton St. about 1:30 a.m.
"They were in the process of executing the search warrant," Modena said. "Because the suspects had a surveillance camera in the front, they were coming through the sides. They announced themselves as sheriff's deputies. Within seconds, they were met with gunfire."
Four shots were fired at Whitehead. The deputy, who was wearing body armor, was shot in the face. His fellow deputies immediately dragged him out of harm's way, retreating momentarily but still identifying themselves to those inside the house. At that point, the suspects, realizing that they had engaged law-enforcement officers instead of gang members, surrendered immediately.
The five suspects had their first court appearance Friday afternoon at the county jail. All five are charged with felony murder in Whitehead's death. The suspects were quiet as Watts informed each one of the charges. Watts told them they weren't entitled to a bond hearing in that court. If there is one, he said, it will be in Superior Court.
After the hearing, Howard Simms, the Bibb County district attorney, reiterated that he would seek the death penalty against all the suspects, although he acknowledged that he may be able to do so only against Fair and Jolly, the two men deputies believe actually fired at Whitehead.
After the hearing, the mother of one of the suspects, Kathy Harclerode, took issue with the turn-of-events involving her son. Hassan Harclerode wasn't present at the time of the shooting. He was arrested later because he rented the home, and authorities said he was responsible for the activities there.
"He wasn't even there," Kathy Harclerode said. "He was at home ... with his fiancee. My son came down on his own to answer questions, and the next thing we know is that he's being charged with murder. It don't make sense."
Kathy Harclerode said she has heard from family members of the other men accused of killing Whitehead. She said they told her the shooting was an accident.
"I really don't think those boys meant to shoot this officer," she said. "If (the police) would have identified theirselves, those boys would have put them guns down and laid on that floor. ... To me, when that officer came in, they didn't know he was an officer. They thought it was (robbers) coming there trying to kill them and stuff because there had been so much violence in that neighborhood. ... But, God knows, I really do not believe ... knowing those kids, that they would have did it intentionally."