A 21-year-old Georgia woman accused of shooting and killing a man who tried to flee the scene of a crash grew emotional during her first hearing Wednesday as a judge read the charges against her.
Hannah Payne faces a murder charge after police say the woman from the Atlanta suburb of Forsyth County took matters into her own hands when she noticed a pickup truck hit another vehicle and attempt to leave.
Payne, who’s licensed to carry, followed the driver, 62-year-old Kenneth Herring, and blocked him in with her Jeep. The young woman then got out of her car to confront the man, her firearm in tow.
According to police, a struggle brief struggle ensued and the gun went off. Herring was shot and later died at the hospital.
“All we are at liberty to discuss at this point is during the struggle, the weapon was discharged,” Clayton County Police Maj. Anthony Thuman told reporters Wednesday, adding that while their investigation is still fluid, police had enough evidence to charge Payne with Herring’s murder.
The young woman’s lawyer, Matt Tucker, argued that his client is a good Samaritan, however, and shouldn’t be considered a murder suspect.
“It just seems like [an] unfortunate situation of a good Samaritan trying to stop a person on a hit-and-run,” Tucker told Atlanta station WSB-TV, noting that Payne suffered scratches and a torn shirt in her scuffle with Herring.
“It should be (finger) prints of his and hers on the gun,” he added, claiming Payne had acted in self-defense.
Police see the situation much differently and argued that Payne, 21, was clearly the aggressor. One witness told WSB-TV she saw the young woman fighting with Herring and ordering him out of his car.
“All of a sudden you hear a ‘pow,’ ” Nicole Jackson recalled. “And she got on her phone immediately and was like, ‘He pulled the trigger.’”
Payne reportedly called 911 during the incident, but the audio hasn’t been released.
Authorities said there is no indication Payne knew the people involved in the initial wreck and that the damage to the other vehicle was only minor. However, her attorney claims Herring also hit Payne’s car as he tried to flee.
Maj. Thuman said that while he hasn’t heard the 911 call, it’s typically recommended that drivers stay inside their car and let the responding officers handle the situation.
“Unfortunately, when you see this many cases, once and a while you will see a unique one,” he said. “This is a unique case where a citizen chose to intervene.”
Herring’s estranged wife, Christine Herring, agreed that Payne should have waited for officers and said it was clear the young woman wasn’t in any danger because she “got out of [her] car to go to his car.”
“I think she needs to go to jail because she committed murder,” Christine Herring told the news station. “You need to go to jail.”
Payne remains in the Clayton County Jail without bond.
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