Forsyth, GA – A former Jackson Police Department officer has been convicted on multiple felony counts after lying about having been shot by a black man while she was on patrol in 2016.
“I’m not sorry for you one bit,” Towaliga Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson told former Jackson Police Officer Sherry Hall during her sentencing on Thursday, according to the Jackson Progress-Argus.
“One percent of the police officers in the United States are ruining it for 99 percent of the others. What you’ve done, you’ve put such a black eye on law enforcement, it’s hard for them to overcome it. We’ve got so many folks fighting us now days and you just added to it,” he added.
Wilson sentenced Hall to 15 years in prison, followed by 23 years of probation.
The alleged incident occurred around midnight on Sep. 13, 2016, when then-Officer Hall, who had been with the department for just three months, was patrolling Camellia Court and drove into a cul-de-sac, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“I don’t recall a whole lot, because I’ve spent two years in therapy trying to suppress it,” Hall testified during her trial, according to the Jackson Progress-Argus. “My spotlight hit on something green that caught my attention … And I saw it was a person sitting there.”
She claimed that she felt “like the wind had been knocked out” of her, and said she had a “burning sensation” on her right side. It was then that she realized she had been shot, she said.
Hall testified that she immediately took cover behind her patrol car, where she sent text messages using a voice-to-text feature in an effort to “make peace” before she died.
She said she also conversed with the shooter during the same period of time, Assistant District Attorney James Moss said, according to the Jackson Progress-Argus.
Despite the purported direness of her situation, however, Hall didn’t radio for assistance.
“You’re already so worried, it’s fair to say. You’re thinking about an escape route…And even then, at that time, you didn’t radio in?” Moss asked her.
Hall described the gunman who supposedly shot her in the vest as a “black male in a green shirt,” and a manhunt quickly ensued, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called in to handle the officer-involved shooting, as per protocol.
“It was revealed that inconsistencies existed with regard to Hall’s statements, witness statements, physical evidence and later examination of forensic evidence,” the bureau said.
What Hall didn’t realize during her earlier interviews with investigators, was that her patrol vehicle’s audio and video recorders captured the events that transpired – even though she had not manually activated them at the time, according to the Jackson Progress-Argus.
“That camera is designed to record all the time, regardless of whether it’s activated or not,” Assistant District Attorney Leslie Tilson told the jury.
In the recordings, Hall was not heard communicating with the supposed suspect, nor was she heard dictating the voice-to-text messages she reported having made.
The sounds of two gunshots was captured by the recording. Hall told investigators there were three rounds fired – one from the suspect, and two from her.
A forensic pathologist later testified that Hall’s “injury” was not consistent with her story that she had been shot in the vest.
There was an abrasion to the superficial layer of her skin, but no deeper bruising or injuries consistent with the blunt-force trauma a bullet would have caused, the doctor who treated her in the emergency room agreed.
“There is no, and never was, a suspect shooter at large in Jackson,” Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Joe Wooten said at the time, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Ten days after the supposed attack, Hall was fired from the department.
In July of 2017, she was indicted on eleven counts, including four charges of violation of oath, four charges of making false statements, two charges of interference with government property, and one count of tampering with evidence.
“I’m innocent of all charges,” Hall told WSB at the time. She later referred to the charges against her as “a coverup in a small town,” the news outlet reported.
"I was shot by a man whose gun sounded like a fizzled-out firecracker. From day one I have suffered horrible symptoms of PTSD. I continue to ask for counseling,” Hall told WSB in late 2016. "There are no words to describe the way I felt when I realized this man was a threat, calling for backup, getting shot as I am backing way, feeling that blunt force, the intense pain."
"As I am trying to get to cover and returning fire to stop him from hurting someone else, I could hardly get the words out 'I'm shot' to dispatch. I believed I was about to die," she continued.
Hall said that she struggled to speak with investigators, because the "harsh flashbacks...were almost rendering me speechless."
One count of interference with government property was dismissed prior to the start of the trial, the Jackson Progress-Argus reported.
The jury found Hall guilty of the remaining ten counts.
She had previously been offered a plea agreement that would have sent her to prison for just five years, but she refused.
“Judge, this case has been going on since September 2016. Since that time, Ms. Hall has had the chance to come forward and do the right thing and she has steadfastly chosen not to do that,” Moss said during Hall’s sentencing proceedings. “What’s most disturbing and insulting is she chose to take the stand and basically lie. That is troubling.”
“Officers across the country are taking a hit on their honor and integrity to have a person out there who does what she does and tarnishes the badge,” Moss continued. “Quite frankly, if it had not been for the substantial manpower hours allocated by the very competent Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and the very cooperative Jackson Police Department along with the sheriff’s office, we might be sitting here today trying somebody, a falsely accused and identified person, based on her work.”
“It was clear to the jury Ms. Hall obviously made this entire event up and that’s not the type of person we want as a law enforcement officer,” Moss said.
Jackson Police Chief James Morgan said that he felt Hall’s sentence was appropriate, given the circumstances of her offenses.
“The evidence led to the facts and justice has prevailed,” Chief Morgan said. “It’s hard. Sometimes you make a mistake, but this was not a mistake. This was a choice.”
“We have a lot going on — a lot of negativity toward law enforcement,” he added. “And, in cases like this, it just adds to the fuel.”