Top 3 Clayton crime stories of 2019

Hannah Payne faces two counts of felony murder, one count each of of malice murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment, and three counts of weapons possession during the commission of a crime in the May 7 shooting death of Kenneth Herring. She remains free on bond.

JONESBORO — A woman accused of chasing down and shooting a man after he left the scene of a fender-bender is free on $100,000 bond but must wear an ankle monitor.

Hannah Payne, 21, is charged with malice murder in the May 7 shooting death of Kenneth Herring, 62.

Judge William West found there is probable cause for Payne to stand trial on murder but granted her release on $100,000 bond May 31. Payne’s next court date had not been set as of press time.

Payne is alleged to have chased down Herring after he struck a tractor-trailer in his pickup truck on Clark Howell Highway near I-85. At least one witness says Payne, who was carrying a firearm, cut off Herring with her Jeep near Forest Parkway and Riverdale Road and repeatedly ordered him out of the car. Payne allegedly drew her gun and pointed it at Herring, who was shot in the abdomen. He was transported to a hospital where he died.

According to his wife, Christine, Herring likely was having a diabetic emergency at the time. “I know he don’t just run off the scene. I knew he was just trying to get to the hospital.”

Clayton County Police Detective Keon Hayward testified that an EMS worker at the scene said Hayward seemed to be having a diabetic emergency. “He was disoriented, he was asking what happened, who hit me, what’s going on.”

Hayward said despite a 911 operator’s instructions not to follow Herring, Payne continued to follow him.

“The 911 dispatcher was repeatedly telling Payne to remain at the original accident location, that it was safer and that she had officers already en route,” Hayword told District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson. “And in the background, because at this particular time, it appears that Payne doesn’t have her cellphone with her, in the background you can hear, ‘Get out of the car. Get out of the car. Get out of the car. Get out of that f’ing car.’ And then it was just kind of silent, and then she comes and returns to the phone and says, ‘He just shot himself with my gun,’ on the 911 call.”

Herring was unarmed. However, Payne’s attorney said Herring may have torn Payne’s shirt and scratched her face when she was at his window.

Lawson said, “She’s the aggressor. She can’t claim self-defense. And on top of that, Judge, she’s using deadly force. She isn’t faced with deadly force. He (Herring) has nothing. And then, she shoots him.”

Herring’s wife, Christine, said he did mechanical and air conditioning work and should be remembered as “A hardworking man, a good grandfather, a good husband — he was just a good person all around.”

Payne’s friends and relatives said they do not believe the shooting was racially motivated.

“Hannah is not the person they are saying she is,” Payne’s mother, Margaret, told reporters. “Not at all. She’s the sweetest, most caring, does not see color, does not see race, nothing at all.”

News of the shooting made national headlines and prompted comparisons with George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Trayvon Martin after following him through the Sanford, Florida, subdivision where Martin was on vacation.

Margaret Payne said, “It was just an unfortunate situation that, you know, turned out the way that it did. But not at the hands of my daughter.”

She added that her daughter had gotten a gun for protection because she travels around town for work.

“Just (for) everyday protections, you know, the society that we live in today. You hear about it every day on the news. Innocent people are getting shot, innocent people are getting broken into.”

Christine Herring has a different point of view: “She was trying to act like the police.”

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Crime and Safety Reporter

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