An officer shot. A bullet stopped by body armor. A 10-day chase for an unidentified shooter.
A newly hired Jackson police officer told a compelling story about what happened late the night of Sept. 13. After only three months on the job, Sherry Hall found herself immersed in a high-profile shooting, pitting a white officer against a black man. At least, that was her account of what happened.
But she made the whole thing up, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
On Friday, Hall was charged with four felonies, including evidence tampering and giving false statements to investigators.
After her account began to unravel over the past two weeks, investigators were left with little to conclude other than she shot herself, but officials stopped short of saying so Friday.
“Cops are humans and they make mistakes, but this is not a mistake,” Butts County Sheriff Gary Long said at a news conference. “This is criminal.”
GBI Special Agent Joe Wooten said Hall is on paid administrative leave after checking herself into a “private facility” to seek help.
“Upon release, she will be arrested,” Wooten said.
The tale Hall told her supervisors frightened the tiny community into thinking a suspect was on the loose in Butts County.
GBI officials interviewed Hall on three separate occasions, and each time she stuck to her story, Wooten said.
When she called out for help on her police radio, she described a 6-foot, 230-pound black man who took off after shooting her. He wore a green shirt and black jogging pants, Hall told GBI investigators.
She said the bullet struck her vest, which she credited with saving her life.
The man allegedly escaped and authorities put out a description for his arrest.
“There is no, and never was, a suspect shooter at large in Jackson,” Wooten said.
Hall’s account continued to come apart as investigators and law enforcement officials spent more than 600 hours examining the case, Wooten said.
At first, she said she failed to “engage her in-car video and audio,” so there was no evidence to back her up. But Wooten said the manufacturer helped recover digital forensic evidence that showed “inconsistencies.”
After Hall was again interviewed, she stopped cooperating with the GBI.
Video and audio recording evidence shows there were only two shots fired at the scene, while Hall said there were three, Jackson District Attorney Richard Milam said.
Hall also failed to tell investigators she had an extra handgun with her the night she was shot. It was found after officials executed a search warrant at her house earlier this week.
It’s “gut-wrenching to know one of your own has been harmed,” Police Chief James Morgan said, but he plans to move forward in prosecuting one of the department’s own for hurting the community with lies.
Likewise, Jackson Mayor Kay Pippin said she is “disappointed on so many levels” because of the lost manpower hours — and lost trust.
“For two weeks this incident has cast an image of the city of Jackson that does not reflect who we are,” Pippin said, calling Jackson a safe city where violent crime is a rarity.
The District Attorney said Hall wasn’t even on a police call at the time she reported being shot.
“The truth is the officer did something wrong,” Milam said. “She will be prosecuted and brought to justice.” [Ellen Eldridge and Brad Schrade]