published Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Gordon County deputy cleared after patrol car struck and killed a 78-year-old man

The Gordon County, Ga., sheriff's deputy whose patrol car struck and killed a 78-year-old man Friday night could not have seen the victim until it was too late, according to Georgia State Patrol investigators.

"It was in a rural area that was not well-lit. The pedestrian shouldn't have been walking in the middle of the roadway," said Capt. Paul Cosper with the state patrol, which handled the investigation.

The victim was identified as Gerald E. Williams, whose last known address was in Lebanon, Tenn., the sheriff's office said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Deputy Joshua Cochran, 23, was on routine patrol on U.S. Highway 41 near Calhoun, Ga., around 11 p.m. when the elderly man walked in front of his patrol car, officials said.

Cochran did not take a leave of absence and is on active duty, according to Chief Deputy Sheriff Robert Paris. No charges will be filed in the case, he said.

Williams had been spotted wandering roadways in the area for two weeks before the accident, according to the sheriff's office.

On Sept. 12, Williams was hitchhiking on Interstate 75 when another Gordon County deputy picked him up and took him to Whitfield County, Paris said.

"We usually do not pick up hitchhikers, but seeing that he was an elderly man the deputy wanted to help him out," Paris said.

Earlier Friday, a motorist had called 911 to report that Williams was wandering along state Route 53 near Floyd County.

At that time, an ambulance took Williams to Gordon Hospital, where he was evaluated and released Friday afternoon.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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