A 21-year-old woman has been accused of taking matters into her own hands after witnessing a hit-and-run crash in Clayton County.
Her attorney calls her a good Samaritan. Police are calling her a murderer.
Officers said it’s not every day that a witness inserts themselves into such a situation, but it’ll likely be up to a jury to decide whether Hannah Payne was overzealous or just a concerned citizen.
During the evening commute Tuesday, Payne decided to follow a pickup truck after she saw it hit another vehicle near Clark Howell Highway and Ga. 85, Clayton County police said.
The Fayetteville woman claimed the driver of the pickup, 62-year-old Kenneth Herring, tried to drive away from a wreck he caused.
So Payne tailed him for about a mile to the intersection of Riverdale Road and Forest Parkway, where she positioned her Jeep in front of his truck to prevent him from going any farther, police said.
While the details about what happened next remain murky, some sort of altercation took place.
It ended with Herring shot in the abdomen.
Payne’s attorney, Matt Tucker, told Channel 2 Action News that she was provoked to further action when Herring’s truck hit her Jeep, but police said the two vehicles did not collide at any point during the incident.
What’s not in contention is who brought the gun.
Payne, who is licensed to carry, had her firearm with her when she left her Jeep and approached the truck, Maj. Anthony Thuman said during a Wednesday news conference.
“All we are at liberty to discuss at this point is during the struggle, the weapon was discharged,” he said.
A witness flagged down an officer directing traffic near the entrance to I-285 at Riverdale Road to report the man was shot about 6:15 p.m. Tuesday. He later died at an area hospital.
“It just seems like an unfortunate situation,” Tucker told Channel 2.
Police were quick to rule out road rage as a factor since Payne wasn’t involved in the initial wreck.
The investigation is still fluid, but Thuman insisted there was enough evidence to warrant the murder charge against Payne.
He said there is no indication Payne knew either of the drivers involved in the initial wreck, which did not cause extensive damage to either vehicle.
“Unfortunately, when you see this many cases, once in a while you will see a unique one,” he said. “This is a unique case where a citizen chose to intervene."
At some point during the incident, Payne called 911, but the call hasn’t been released. While he had not listened to the call himself, Thuman said police typically “recommend that people stay in the car and let the officers responding handle the situation.”
Tucker told the news station his client, who was tearful in court, should be considered a good Samaritan, not a murder suspect. He said the gun was fired after a struggle.
“She had a ripped shirt, she had scratch marks on her,” Tucker said. “There should be (finger) prints of his and hers on the gun.”
Payne is being held in the Clayton County Jail without bond.
The investigation temporarily blocked all lanes of the Perimeter’s outer loop.
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