July 2, 2019

Video Shows Man With Knife Attacking ACCPD Officers Before They Shot Him

Screen Shot 2019-07-02 at 1.28.18 PM.png

A still from Officer Charles Bidinger's body camera shows Officer David Harrison wrangling with Aaron Hong.

The man who two Athens-Clarke County police officers shot and killed at an apartment complex off Macon Highway on Monday attacked one of the officers and tried to take his gun, body camera video released by ACCPD today shows.

Police Chief Cleveland Spruill walked reporters through the footage at an 11:30 a.m. news conference.

It shows the two officers, David Harrison and Charles Bidinger, responding to a call at the River Club apartments about a knife-wielding man covered in blood. They encountered the man—identified as Aaron Hong, 23—in the parking lot. (The blood is believed to be Hong's own.) 

Bidinger and Harrison immediately drew their guns and repeatedly told Hong to drop the knife, alternating between orders and pleas. "We can help you," Harrison said. Hong walked toward the officers with the knife as they retreated back down the long driveway to Macon Highway, shouting at them to "do it!"

As they reached the road, Harrison told Bidinger "less lethal." Bidinger put away his pistol and took out his Taser. At the same time, Hong charged at Harrison, who fired multiple shots.

Hong fell to the ground, but as Harrison holstered his weapon and approached him, Hong got back up and moved toward Bidinger, yelling at him to "shoot me!" He then grabbed Harrison, holding him around the neck from behind with one arm as he reached for Harrison's gun. Harrison slumped down, and Bidinger shot Hong again.

Paramedics who were standing by treated Hong, but he died at the scene.

Spruill would not comment on what made Hong so agitated. 

Hong was not a UGA student, but he may have been subleasing an apartment at River Club, Spruill said.

Harrison has seven years' experience on the force. Bidinger is a rookie officer. He was also involved in the March fatal shooting of Thomas Wayne Swinford, who pointed what later turned out to be a realistic-looking air pistol at police during a standoff in a Westlake Drive parking lot.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation cleared the officers in that shooting, Spruill said, although it could be a year or two before the district attorney's office releases a final report.

Bidinger went through firearms training and was given a psychological evaluation before returning to duty after the Swinford shooting, Spruill said. He described Bidinger as distraught but "comfortable with the decisions he made."

Although the GBI is handling the investigation, Spruill said the video clearly shows that the officers had reason to fear for their lives and acted in self-defense.

Both officers are on administrative leave while the investigation is underway.