PERRY — After deliberating for less than an hour Thursday, a Houston County jury found a Warner Robins man guilty of attempted murder for shooting an unarmed civilian code enforcement officer. Superior Court Judge Katherine K. Lumsden sentenced John Adcock, 56, to 95 years in prison.
“The Constitution guarantees everybody’s rights, not just yours,” Lumsden told Adcock from the bench, “and provides a method of resolving disputes” other than “shooting people.”
The judge cited the courts, lawsuits, peaceful demonstrations and free speech as other means of resolving disputes. She also noted that Adcock showed no remorse for his actions.
Adcock, who represented himself, maintained that he was protecting himself, his property and his home when he opened fire with a double-barrel shotgun and then a semi-automatic rifle on the code enforcement officer, a police officer and three wrecker drivers who came to his home at 204 Ward St. on April 23, 2008, to tow away his junk vehicles. Another officer arriving on scene after the shooting began also was fired upon.
“Is this country going to a police state?” Adcock asked jurors during his closing statement before deliberations. “What do you do when police is stealing your property?”
Adcock told jurors that “your rights will slowly be taken away from you” if you don’t take a stand.
Beau Weathers, the man Adcock shot in the face, shoulder and arm, and Warner Robins police Capt. Bill Capps, who heads the city’s code enforcement office and also was fired upon, both said during sentencing that Adcock should receive the maximum prison term.
Weathers told the judge that his family, especially his 8-year-old son, Drue, had experienced extreme bouts of grief and fear after the shooting. Weathers said he believed Adcock would do something similar again if ever released from prison.
Capps, who described the shooting as “20 minutes of terror,” said he suffers psychological distress from the incident. He said that Adcock is no different from a terrorist in Afghanistan, and that Adcock showed no remorse for what he had done.
“He lives with it in his cell,” Capps said outside of courtroom proceedings. “We live with it with our families.”
When asked by the judge if he wanted to say something at sentencing, Adcock made a vague reference that left many of those assembled in the courtroom wondering what he meant. Houston County Chief Assistant District Attorney Jason Ashford said he did not know what Adcock meant either.
The jury found Adcock guilty on all counts, which also included: aggravated battery and aggravated assault on Weathers; possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime; two counts of aggravated assault on two Warner Robins police officers; four counts of aggravated assault on Weathers and three wrecker drivers; and three counts of criminal damage to property for three wreckers that were riddled with bullets.
“We think this is going to serve as a strong deterrent,” said Ashford, who prosecuted the case. “We are gratified with the verdict, and we are gratified with the sentence.”
One of the jurors, Gary Sistrunk of Warner Robins, said the jury had some degree of sympathy for Adcock, “but you cannot take the law into your own hands.”
According to court testimony, Adcock had five junk vehicles on his property and that the property was littered with trash. Adcock asked questions of witnesses that indicated his property was enclosed by a 6-foot-high privacy fence, bushes nearly 10-feet tall and could not be seen from the street. Adcock had received a 15-day warning to ensure compliance with municipal codes.
During the trial, he also asked questions about the city’s right to tow his vehicles and why a judge was not asked to issue a summons and decide whether his vehicles should be towed. Lumsden told Adcock that whether the code had been followed was not an issue for the jury.
Adcock also cited his Second Amendment right to possess weapons. Six additional weapons and a large amount of ammunition were recovered from his home after the shooting and resulting standoff with police. The standoff ended peacefully after several hours.
“Justice is delivered in a court not at the barrel of a gun,” Ashford told jurors in closing arguments before deliberations. “There is no excuse for this behavior ... to shoot an unarmed code enforcement officer just trying to do his job ... spraying bullets indiscriminately because they wanted to tow beat-up cars.”
Adcock, a former sheet metal worker and a widower, was in a wheelchair because of a medical condition for part of the proceedings. He indicated in court records that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Although he was given the opportunity to wear street clothes in court, Adcock chose to wear a Houston County jail jumpsuit during proceedings.
David Scott Lankford, 40, Adcock’s stepson, said outside of courtroom proceedings that he had no idea how bad Adcock’s Ward Street home had deteriorated. He said he had previously offered to clean it up but Adcock declined. Lankford said Adcock once kept a nice house and yard, but that he started to let it go about eight or 10 years ago after losing his job.
Testimony from the trial indicated that the home was heavily littered with paths through the trash, that a bathroom was not working, and that parts of the ceiling and floor were unsafe. Although Adcock passed a psychological evaluation, Lankford said outside the courtroom that something had to be wrong for Adcock to live that way.
Lankford said he was initially angry with Adcock after learning the condition his mother had spent her last days in when she was sick prior to her death.
But Lankford also said Adcock was still his stepfather and that he was an only child.
Lankford broke down in tears on the witness stand earlier in the week as he was being sworn in. Lankford testified that Adcock called him after shooting Weathers.
“I figured it was some police officer,” Lankford testified. “He (Adcock) said if they ever came back, that would happen.”
Lankford, who left the courtroom after the jury verdict, could not be reached by telephone for additional comment after sentencing.
Outside of court, Weathers said the trial was as stressful, if not more stressful, than the ordeal of being shot. It was trying, Weathers said, of keeping his composure on the witness stand while having “to look at the man who tried to kill you.”
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.