The parents of Georgia woman Hannah Payne are defending their daughter amid claims that her decision to follow, assault and ultimately shoot a man who fled the scene of a hit-and-run was racially motivated.
Payne, 21, was released on $100,000 bond Friday and now awaits a murder trial stemming from the May incident that left 62-year-old Kenneth Herring dead. After the hearing, the young woman’s family and friends gathered to voice their support.
“I’m speechless,” Payne’s mother, Margaret Payne, told 11Alive, relieved her daughter was granted bail. “I’m just so glad that it went that way.”
“We’re sorry for what happened, in regards to Mr. Herring,” she added. “But … Hannah isn’t the person they’re saying she is.”
Prosecutors said Payne acted like police when she chased Herring down and fatally shot him after he left the scene of an accident on May 7 in the Atlanta suburb of Clayton County. Payne witnessed Herring’s collision with a tractor-trailer, but was not involved in it.
Ignoring a 911 dispatcher’s instructions to remain at the initial crash site, Payne instead tailed the man for nearly a mile before boxing him in with her Jeep and confronting him with a gun. Many, including Mr. Herrring’s widow, have likened her to a female George Zimmerman.
Despite all this, the young woman’s mother described her as the “sweetest, most caring” person who “doesn’t see color” or race. Herring was African-American.
Drivers who witnessed the incident recalled seeing Payne “punching” the man and repeatedly shouting at him to “get out of the f—–g car!” A scuffle ensued, and ended with Payne being shot.
“This was an unfortunate situation that turned the way it did, but not at the hands of my daughter,” Margaret Payne said. “It wasn’t her fault.”
Witnesses told police that, Payne, who was still on the phone with 911, told the dispatcher that Herring had shot himself with her gun. Another witness filmed the young woman changing her shirts before officers arrived to the scene.
When asked if they thought Hannah would’ve taken the same action against a white driver, her parents said “absolutely,” reiterating that their daughter doesn’t see color.
“She sees right, she sees wrong. That’s who she is,” her mother said.
Prosecutors argued Hannah had taken the wrong actions that day when she decided to confront Herring, who witnesses said appeared to be suffering a medical emergency described as “probably like a diabetic shock.” A prosecutor said Herring stayed at the initial crash before leaving, possibly to seek medical attention.
Payne’s attorney argued the young woman had acted in self-defense, but prosecutors did not see it that way.
“She’s using deadly force; she wasn’t faced with deadly force,” District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said during a preliminary hearing last week. “You cannot claim self-defense and use deadly force unless you’re not the initial aggressor — she is.”
Payne’s boyfriend Edgar Jimenez said he had a tough time believing what had happened because “that’s not Hannah at all.” Jimenez, who’s Dominican, also brushed off claims that the shooting was the result of racial animus.
“You can tell by all of Hannah’s friends, [that] she’s not like that,” he told 11Alive. “We don’t see color. We’re just human.”
Mikaya Franklin, who identified herself Payne’s best friend and is Black, echoed those remarks.
“She’s an amazing person,” Franklin said. “It’s easy for people to say it’s a [race issue] because that’s the racial climate right now … but that’s not the case. I can say that personally because I know Hannah.”