A veteran officer known for her love of children and the mother of a 3-year-old is being mourned today.
Area officers knew Det. Kristin Hearne for her police work and also for her constantly helping with child seat safety checks and matters involving children.
They were stunned to hear of her murder as she became the third member of the Polk County Police Department to die in service in last 86 years.
Hearne was a 5-year veteran of the Polk County police force. Prior to her work in Polk, she served as a deputy with the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office for several years. Floyd Sheriff Tim Burkhalter says his department mourns with the Polk community.
“She was a good officer with us. We hated to see her leave and begged her to stay,” says Burkhalter. “She was lovable, friendly and outgoing person. Lots of our folks worked with her and are devastated by it. She is really going to be missed.”
Polk County Commissioner Scotty Tillery says, “Yesterday Polk County lived in a bubble, but today Polk County is living in reality. Our Community has lost one of its finest police officers due to nothing but evil and hate! Kristen was not only a fine Police Officer, she was a friend! She could make you laugh or she could set you straight. She had so many great qualities and she will be missed by many. Kristen was also a sister to many police officers. I cannot imagine the pain and hurt that her fellow officers and her family are experiencing tonight and for many weeks to come.”
According to the GBI report, Hearne was assisting fellow officer David Goodrich in responding to a call about a suspicious vehicle located on Santa Claus Road in Polk County around 10:56 a.m. Friday. The vehicle was identified as being stolen from Tennessee. While checking the vehicle, the two officers made contact with Seth Brandon Spangler, 31, and Samantha Roof, 22, who walked up from a wood line. While the officers were speaking with the two, Spangler pulled a handgun and fired. Goodrich was shot in his bulletproof vest and later treated and released from Polk Medical Center. Hearne was fatally shot multiple times.
“It was more or less an ambush,” Polk County Police Chief Kenny Dodd said at a news conference Friday. “(Spangler) drew the gun before they knew what happened.”
Spangler and Roof fled the scene and a search of the area involving local, state, and federal agencies began. Roof was caught a short time later after search dogs arrived on the scene. At approximately 2:48 pm, Spangler appeared out of the woods and was arrested. Hometown Headlines has learned Spangler was naked as he came out of the woods to surrender to authorities. The guess is he wanted to show the arresting officers that he was unarmed.
Spangler and Ruth are charged with felony murder and felony aggravated assault. Both are being held in the Polk County Jail. Spangler was wanted on outstanding warrants in Walker County, Ga. on felony probation violations.
An autopsy was performed late Friday at the GBI Crime Lab in Decatur. Preliminary information indicates that Hearne was shot at least four times. Due to the location of the fatal wound, it is unlikely that a body armor vest would have prevented her death, according to the GBI report.
The GBI and Polk County Police are continuing the investigation. Anyone with information concerning the case is asked to call the GBI office in Calhoun at 706-624-1424.
The following agencies responded to the call for assistance: Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Cedartown Police Department, Polk County Fire and Rescue, Polk County EMA, Floyd County Sheriff’s Office, Floyd County Police Department, Paulding County Sheriff’s Office, Haralson Paulding Drug Task Force, Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force, Rockmart Police Department, Atlanta Police Department Aviation, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division, Georgia State Patrol, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Marshals Service.
“There was a good showing of local law enforcement from all over the area to answer the call for help. In my opinion, we wouldn’t of caught him as quickly as we did if there had not been as many officers and dogs out in the woods helping in the search,” says Burkhalter, who responded to the call along with other FCSO deputies on Friday.
Funeral arrangements for Detective Kristen Hearne are incomplete at this time and will be announced later by the Lester C. Litesey Funeral Home of Cedartown.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Polk County Police had lost two officers in the past. They were:
- Assistant Chief Edward William Jones, Jan. 9, 1970. Automobile crash.
- Policeman William J. Wester, June 26, 1931, gunfire