Posted by: Jennifer Mayerle | March 31, 2011

Admitted Cop Killer Surrenders On Live TV

Friday night I was a part of something that I had been a part of before. A man wanted for killing a police officer and wounding another, released hostages and surrendered on live TV. Talk about good TV.

It was the culmination of a very tense week that began on Tuesday, March 22. That’s the day Jamie Hood is accused of carjacking and kidnapping a man, then carjacking another woman. Soon after, police spotted his brother driving a car and pulled him over. He complied, but Jamie Hood was in the car and shot Athens Clarke County Senior Officer Tony Howard. After taking off on foot, he encountered Senior Officer Elmer “Buddy” Christian. Christian never stood a chance. Police say Hood shot him through his car window execution style. At that moment, the hunt was on for accused cop killer Jamie Hood.

An intensive manhunt was underway. Law enforcement from all over the state descended on Athens, including the GBI and the FBI. You see, police said they knew what type of guy Hood was. He had been to prison for more than a decade and was just released in 2009. On top of that, a police officer killed his brother while he was in jail. According to published reports, his brother was shot after he held a gun to an officer’s head. People in the community told us the Hood boys were notoriously known around Athens. Even Hood’s brother Steven told us his family has “bad blood with police.”

For four days, more than 150 officers were all over Athens; many of them had weapons drawn at all times. In fact, I’ve never seen so many weapons up close. Officers were posted on the side of the road, they were in the woods searching, and they popped out of ditches on the side of the road. You name it, they were there. They were determined to catch Hood before Christian’s funeral on Sunday.

Police believed Hood never left Athens and they turned out to be right. Finally on Friday, police get word Hood wants to surrender. That surrender doesn’t go as planned. Instead Hood takes 9 hostages (we now know it was 10 but one escaped).

At one point, around 9 p.m., Hood released 4 hostages. I did a breaking news cut-in. GBI Director Vernon Keenan told the media Hood had many demands. First Keenan went on live TV around 10 p.m. During his quick remarks he told Hood he knows he released hostages in good faith and if he surrendered, he would not be harmed. Keep in mind, we’ve been talking with family members of the hostages. We didn’t put them on camera because we were told Hood was watching TV and was getting more upset the more he heard. Hood was very concerned with his own safety. Another demand is that he surrenders on live TV to ensure he would not be harmed.

Around 11 p.m. all of the four TV stations in Atlanta went live, showing the door of the apartment where Jamie Hood was expected to come out and release his hostages. It took a few minutes, but then came the hostages and Hood, walking out of the apartment on live TV. He even admitted he killed the officer and that he didn’t deserve it. Hollywood couldn’t have written a script like this. It was great TV. In my 10 years as a reporter, I have never been a part of something unfolding this way. It was great TV. The best part is Hood surrendered peacefully and none of the hostages were harmed.

So what was the downside? We were on late that night because of the NCAA tournament. We put up a double box, still showing the game, but also showing the surrender (with the audio of the surrender up, the basketball game down). The station received many calls and emails from people angry that we were interrupting the game. I even received texts from friends watching the game who were upset. To me, it’s an easy choice. Either you interrupt basketball so that an accused cop killer will release hostages and turn himself in or you continue with the game and take the risk the same accused cop killer will hurt hostages or someone else. We received so many calls and emails, my boss, Steve Schwaid wrote a blog about it. Here’s the link:


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