Savannah, GA – A former U.S. Marine armed with a concealed weapon chased down a fleeing suspect accused of raping a woman in the bathroom of a Kroger grocery store and held him at gunpoint until police arrived.
The incident occurred at the Kroger store on Ogeechee Road shortly before 6:30 p.m. on April 27, WTOC reported.
Damian Austin said he was shopping when he heard a woman’s scream coming from the store bathroom, according to WSAV.
“It made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck because it wasn’t a normal yell,” Austin told the news outlet.
He said the store turned a bit chaotic for a moment before he learned about what had allegedly occurred.
“A lady behind me just said ‘he raped that girl in the bathroom,’” Austin told WSAV. “Once she said that, there was nothing else for me to do besides go out the door after him.”
Austin took off on foot after the suspect, chasing him through the grocery store parking lot and into a grassy area behind an Ace Hardware store nearby.
The former Marine pulled out his handgun and ordered the accused rapist to surrender, WSAV reported.
“He locked eyes with me and I looked at him and I said, ‘give it up brother, because I’m not,’” Austin told WTOC.
“I told him to put his hands in the air. He complied and put them up,” he recounted to WSAV. “I told him to get on the ground, and he tried to say something, and I said: ‘Don’t say a word.’”
Security footage showed the good Samaritan as he held the suspect at gunpoint.
A woman went into the store at one point and brought a large package of zip ties back out to help secure the suspect.
“I kept drawn down on him and made sure he didn’t move,” Austin told WSAV.
Police soon arrived and arrested 25-year-old Gregory Hathorne on charges of felony kidnapping, felony rape, and misdemeanor battery, WTOC reported.
The adult female victim, who recently moved to the area, told investigators she had no idea who Hathorne is and that they’d never met before, according to police.
She was transported to the local hospital for treatment and is also receiving services from the Rape Crisis Center, WTOC reported.
Austin said he was glad to see so many people jump in to work as a group to stop the suspect, WSAV reported.
“There are people who still care, and they’ll act in time of need,” he said.
He said it was also important to him to apprehend the suspect to help make his community a safer place.
“My wife shops here, I have friends whose wives shop here, my son works here,” Austin told SWAV. “So, it was just about not letting this person get away after he did what he did.”
“To the family of the young lady and also to the young lady, I want to offer my sincerest most heartfelt prayers to you and your family,” he told WTOC. “Just know that there are guardian angels out there, there are people who do care, and I just want you like I said to be blessed and I am praying for you and your family.”
Chatham County Police Department (CCPD) Chief Jeff Hadley said he is grateful to Austin and the other Good Samaritans who sprang into action.
“I just can’t commend them enough for involving themselves in a dangerous situation obviously, so this person could be held accountable and we could make an arrest so there wasn’t any further danger to the community,” Chief Hadley told WTOC.
Kroger released a statement thanking the CCPD for quickly responding to the scene to apprehend Hathorne.
“The safety and security of our customers and associates are our top priority,” the company said in a statement to WTOC. “We would like the thank the Chatham County Police Department for their quick response. We are working with CCPD as they move forward with their investigation.”
Ace Hardware presented Austin with a $100 gift card as a token of their appreciation, WSAV reported.
“It was just an awesome thing that you did and we just appreciate it,” the manager told him.