Columbus, GA – The gunman accused of shooting five people during an almost 24-hour spree through Georgia and Alabama over the weekend told police that his attacks were racially-motivated and he intentionally targeted military-looking white men.
Columbus Police Detective Brandon Lockhart testified at the preliminary hearing for 39-year-old Justin Tyran Roberts on Monday that after he was captured, Roberts had told him he targeted white men because white men had picked on him and wronged him his whole life, the Associated Press reported.
Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon said that authorities believed Roberts’ terrifying odyssey began at about 8:15 p.m. on Friday at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in the 1400-block of Whitewater Avenue in Phenix City, Alabama, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.
Two hours later, he was shooting again across the state line in Columbus, Georgia, the Associated Press reported.
Chief Blackmon said investigators believed Roberts shot three people at about 10:15 p.m. in the 1000-block of Broadway in Columbus, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.
Police have said the victims were two men and a woman.
The chief said that investigators believed Roberts shot a fourth person in Columbus at about 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, bringing his total number of victims in about 20 hours to five, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.
Roberts allegedly shot the last man in the back as he was getting into a vehicle parked under the Oglethorpe Bridge.
Chief Blackmon said that witnesses from all of the shooting scenes gave a description of the gunman that matched Roberts very closely.
He said police have found no evidence that Roberts knew any of his victims, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.
All of the victims from Roberts’ shooting spree were transported to hospitals and treated for non-life-threatening gunshot wounds.
Roberts was arrested by Columbus police at about 4 p.m. on June 12, approximately two hours after the Oglethorpe Bridge shooting, the New York Post reported.
He was sitting on the steps outside a residence in the 400-block of Third Avenue with a stolen Taurus 9mm pistol, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.
Roberts was charged with three counts of aggravated assault, and one count each of using a firearm to commit a crime and being a convicted felon with a firearm in connection with the shootings on Broadway.
He was charged with one count each of aggravated assault, using a gun to commit a crime, being a convicted felon with a firearm, and theft by receiving stolen property for the shooting under the Oglethorpe Bridge, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.
Chief Blackmon told reporters on Sunday that Phenix City police would be bringing their own charges against Roberts in Alabama.
At Roberts’ preliminary hearing on June 14, Det. Lockhart testified that Roberts told him he “had to have” the last victim he shot under the bridge, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.
“Basically, he explained throughout his life, specifically white males had taken from him, and also what he described as ‘military-looking white males’ had taken from him,” the detective explained.
The detective told the judge that Roberts had also claimed that military-looking white men were “shooting at him in a wooded area with a slingshot,” and said his skin had been affected by the wounds he’d sustained, the Associated Press reported.
Det. Lockhart testified that police were unable to find any injuries on Roberts to substantiate his claims.
The public defender who represented Roberts asked the judge to order a mental health evaluation for his client, the Associated Press reported.
“The officer’s testimony has demonstrated that Mr. Roberts is having delusions and a disconnect from reality,” the attorney told the court.
The judge ordered the evaluation and sent Roberts’ case on to Muscogee Superior Court, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.