A Georgia judge ruled Tuesday there was probable cause to move forward in the case against a 21–year–old woman accused of murdering a 62-year-old Black man involved in a hit-and-run accident earlier this month.
In court, prosecutors said defendant Hannah Payne acted like a police officer when she ignored a 911 operator’s instructions to remain at the scene and instead followed Kenneth Herring in her Jeep, according to WSB-TV. Herring hit a semi truck in the May 7 incident and fled the scene.
Authorities said Payne tailed the vehicle while on the phone with 911 dispatchers for nearly a mile before blocking Herring’s pickup truck with her car. Despite the dispatcher’s objections, Herring exited her Jeep to confront the man.
“In the background, you can hear [Payne say], ‘Get out of the car. Get out of the car,’” Clayton County Detective Keon Hayward testified.
A delivery driver who spoke on the condition of anonymity claimed he saw Payne attack Herring, who witnesses said appeared to be in the middle of a medical emergency described as “probably like diabetic shock,” 11Alive reported.
“He was disoriented, he was asking what happened, who hit me, what’s going on,” Hayward told the court.
The witness told police an armed Payne was in the window “punching” the man and attempted to grab him and drag him out of his car. Then a gunshot rang out.
Police said Payne shot Herring in the abdomen. He was rushed to a hospital and later died.
A woman who witnessed the shooting said she heard Payne tell 911 that the man had accidentally shot himself with her gun. Another witness also shot video of Payne changing her clothes before authorities arrived to the scene, according to WSB-TV.
The young woman’s lawyer, Matt Tucker, painted Herring as the aggressor and argued his client shot in self-defense after Herring bruised Payne and tore her shirt during their scuffle.
However, prosecutors thought otherwise and said it was clear Payne was the aggressor.
“She’s using deadly force; she wasn’t faced with deadly force,” District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said. “You cannot claim self-defense and use deadly force unless you’re not the initial aggressor — she is.”
Payne, 21, shed tears Tuesday after the judge said he’d heard enough evidence to move the case to superior court.
“She probably don’t want to go to prison. I wouldn’t want to go to prison for murder either,” Herring’s wife, Christine Herring, told WSB-TV. “I probably would be crying also.”
The widow, who likened the incident to the death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman, said she was more than satisfied with the judge’s decision. Still, she said she’s trying to make sense of it all.
“I believe she’s going to be found guilty because everything points to her,” she added. “[But] why she was trying to actually follow him all the way, block him in and kill him. I’m still trying to figure that out, what was the point?”
Payne remains in the suburban Atlanta Clayton County Jail without bond. Her bond hearing is scheduled for Friday, May 31.
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