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Old 07-26-2005, 12:38 PM
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Default Cops Cleared in Bean Bag Death

Cops Cleared in Bean Bag Death

Provided By: The Associated Press
Last Modified: 7/26/2005 1:21:23 PM

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) -- Two Columbus police officers have been cleared of wrongdoing in the death of a man who was shot with a supposedly non-lethal bean bag projectile.

Lester Zachary was shot on April 5, 2004, after he called a hospital hot line to say he had a gun and was dreaming of killing children and himself.

When officers went to the home, Zachary reportedly told them he would kill them, too. Zachary refused to talk with them, but he eventually came out to his porch. That's when Sgt. Kenneth Hudson, who was at the scene, authorized Officer Joseph Coats to shoot Zachary in the chest using a bean bag gun from about 25 feet away.

Zachary, 45, was shot once in the chest and once in the side. The wound to his side caused internal bleeding, and Zachary died two days later at The Medical Center in Columbus.

An autopsy report listed the cause of death as internal bleeding from blunt force trauma to the spleen.

A bean bag bullet is intended by police as a non-lethal alternative to shooting someone with a gun. The silver dollar-sized bean bag is compressed in a shell casing and loaded into a specialized 12-gauge shotgun. It is designed to create an impact strong enough to make suspects fall to the ground so officers can handcuff them.

Coats and Hudson were investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Muscogee County District Attorney, Gary Conger.

Conger said he would have considered prosecuting the officers if they acted without orders, had no justification for the shooting or had an improper motive. He said they followed procedure.

"You couldn't successfully prosecute anybody on that," he told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

Information from: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, http://www.ledger-enquirer.com

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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