Charges dropped against veteranAtlanta Journal-Constitution
November 11, 2011
All of David Sturdivant's possessions fit in a paper sack he held tightly as he waited Friday in a wheelchair, with a folded walker, outside the Fulton County Jail. He had been an inmate there since a police officer shot him in the stomach seven months ago.
Since then, the 64-year-old former Marine and Purple Heart recipient has lost a kidney, his home, his business and all his belongings. But Friday he gained his freedom after prosecutors dismissed six felony charges related to an incident at Sturdivant's home where he shot at someone he thought was stealing from him.
"I'm numb," Sturdivant said, his gray beard long and his once-salt-and-pepper hair much lighter than when he was arrested on April 8. On that day Sturdivant fired four intermittent shots from his commercial-grade M14 into the dirt to frighten off a man he thought was a thief.
Police officers were nearby and heard the gunfire. Moments later, one of them shouted "drop your weapon" and a second later fired, according to a recording of the event.
Sturdivant, who was on the second-floor porch outside his bedroom, said he never heard the shot from police and he didn't really feel it.
"I looked down and saw a hole in my side," Sturdivant said. "I backed up. I kneeled down and put the gun down. Gathered my wits and stood up and walked to the side"
In addition to losing a kidney, Sturdivant said he also lost "several inches" of his colon.
"He still faces many challenges," said his lawyer, public defender Wes Bryant. "He will have no clothes, no money, and no place to live. He doesn't even have his driver's license for identification. His first stop will likely be to the VA [Veterans Administration] where he can receive treatment for his gunshot wound, and they may be able to recommend a place for him to stay.
Sturdivant had faced 105 years in prison. He faced four aggravated assault against a peace officer charges for allegedly pointing his gun at officers and another aggravated assault charge for shooting at the man he believed to be a thief. He was also charged with possessing a weapon during the commission of a crime.
Prosecutors dropped the charges to a misdemeanor, but Sturdivant refused to plead guilty. He could have left jail two weeks ago but a guilty plead would have resulted in 12 months probation with credit for the seven months served. The deal would have let Sturdivant keep his guns - four rifles and a pistol -- as well as his military disability benefits, according to the prosecutor.
Fulton County Judge Kelly Lee told Sturdivant it was a good offer
Yet as far as Sturdivant is concerned, he had done nothing wrong and he wanted a trial. He had nothing left to lose, he told his lawyer.
It has been quite an odyssey for Sturdivant since he woke from a nap just after 1 p.m. April 8 to go to the bathroom.
While Sturdivant was locked away, the tools and lawnmowers Sturdivant had in his repair shop at his home have been stolen. His 1966 and 1979 Thunderbirds, electronics and HAM radio equipment that belonged to his father, the surveillance cameras positioned around the property, his clothes, important papers and even the door knobs and the key to his mailbox, all gone.
Sturdivant, who had been a frequent target of thieves, said he was just protecting his property when he spotted Dennis Alexander in his yard, getting ready to load a riding lawnmower into the back of a white pickup truck. Alexander, who was not charged in this case, told police he was there to buy parts.
"I fired one shot. I told him to get off my property," Sturdivant said.
Sturdivant said Alexander offered to give him $20 but he responded by firing again into the dirt. Then Alexander shouted to Sturdivant that he knocked on several doors and again Sturdivant pulled the trigger. Finally, according to Sturdivant, Alexander said he thought the property was abandoned and that is when Sturdivant fired for the fourth time.
Alexander could not be reached but he was most recently released from the Fulton County Jail on Sept. 7 after posting a $1,500 bond; he is charged with two counts of burglary, loitering and theft by taking.
Police officers nearby with a crew filming the truTV reality television program "Bait Car" heard the shots and responded to the corner of Bolton Road and Collier Drive to find a naked and armed Sturdivant.
A truTV camera captured it all - the confusion, tension, the fast breathing and the adrenaline of the officers who swarmed to the corner lot shrouded by trees, bushes and underbrush.
Two of the officers, including the one who fired the shot that hit Sturdivant, were still wearing microphones from the "Bait Car" taping when they responded to the shot.
"Where he at? Where he at?" an officer can be heard shouting.
Another says, "You got a shot, take it."
"Drop the gun," one officer shouts.
A second later one rifle shot is fired.
Sturdivant called 911, telling the operator the police had shot him and he needed an ambulance.
According a photo of the gun, a bullet first passed through the strap of the rifle and then a wooden piece on the barrel before going into the left side of Sturdivant's abdomen. Sturdivant said the officers fired from in front of him but the rifle was pointed to his left and down.
The police said he had pointed the rifle at them. APD's internal investigation into the shooting is pending.