CEDARTOWN, Ga. — A Georgia police officer killed while investigating a stolen vehicle is being remembered as a devoted wife and mother who was always willing to help others.
Polk County police Officer Kristen Hearne was fatally shot Friday when she and Officer David Goodrich investigated a car found beside a rural road. Goodrich’s bulletproof vest protected him from serious injury. The suspected gunman, 31-year-old Seth Brandon Spangler, was arrested a few hours later after he emerged from a patch of woods and surrendered.
“Kristen is the absolute kindest person anyone would ever meet,” said Nicole Smith, a close friend of Hearne’s since high school in Rockmart. “She went out of her way to help anyone she could. The world could definitely have used 100 more of her. “
In an interview with The Associated Press, Smith said that Hearne adored her family and losing her is devastating.
“She was one of my very best friends,” Smith said. “She was too amazing to even put into words.”
Hearne, 29, was a five-year veteran of the department who worked hard and loved her job, Police Chief Kenny Dodd said. She was married with a 3-year-old son.
“Words can’t express the sorrow and the hurt that we feel right now as an agency,” Dodd said.
Goodrich was a rookie officer who’d been with the department for about six months.
Goodrich had gone to investigate a report of a stolen vehicle just before 11 a.m., and Hearne came as backup. Spangler and Samantha Roof, 22, walked out of a wooded area toward the officers. When the officers began talking to them, they acted suspiciously and Spangler pulled out a handgun and shot both officers, said Vernon Keenan, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Dodd said Spangler was wanted for a probation violation in a neighboring county. Now he faces felony murder and aggravated assault charges in the slaying of Hearne and shooting of Goodrich.
When Spangler emerged from the woods a second time, he was wearing no clothes, Dodd said.
“This was obviously not his first run-in with the law,” Dodd said at a news conference. “I have no idea why he thought it was worth the life of a police officer who was just doing her job. It’s a senseless killing.”
Spangler and Roof ran from the scene and a manhunt ensued. Roof was quickly arrested and Spangler surrendered to officers hours later, Keenan said.
“He came out of the woods with no clothes on and just gave himself up,” Dodd said. “So we are currently out there with canines searching for articles of clothing.”
Roof will also face felony charges, Keenan said.
Both officers acted bravely, Dodd said.
Funeral services are pending. In addition to her husband, Matt, and son, Isaac, Hearne is survived by her parents and a younger brother.
Spangler was wanted on outstanding Walker County warrants for probation violation, Keenan said.
Georgia Department of Corrections records show Spangler was released from prison in August 2016. He had been serving time for convictions on a 2011 charge of cruelty to children as well as criminal counts added in 2015 for methamphetamine possession and possession of drugs by a prisoner.
This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of Hearne’s first name to Kristen.