The man charged with shooting and wounding multiple people in three separate attacks over the weekend told police that his actions were racially motivated, saying that he targeted "military-looking white males," the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports.
Justin Tyran Roberts, 39, is accused of assaulting five people on Friday and Saturday in Columbus, Georgia, and Phenix City, Alabama. During a court appearance on Monday related to one of the incidents, a shooting on Saturday at about 2 p.m., Detective Brandon Lockhard testified that Roberts told police "I had to have him," referring to the victim, who was shot as he entered his vehicle in a parking area under the Oglethorpe Bridge.
Lockhard said later that during an interview at police headquarters, Roberts, who is Black, "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."
Roberts claimed that these men had been "shooting at him in a wooded area with a slingshot," and given him wounds that became infected, but police found no injuries that matched. His public defender, Robin King, asked the judge, Julius Hunter, to order a mental health evaluation for her client.
"The officer’s testimony has demonstrated that Mr. Roberts is having delusions and a disconnect from reality," she said, and Hunter agreed.
The prosecutor, Nicholas Hud, noted during the hearing that Roberts has previously been convicted of multiple felonies, including having stolen a firearm and of possessing a gun while a convicted felon. He also said that the random nature of the attacks and the racial motivation illustrates that Roberts presents a public safety risk and that the victims of the shooting did not want Roberts released on bond.
Police found Roberts about two hours after the Saturday shooting sitting outside with a 9-millimeter pistol that had been stolen last week. He faces charges of aggravated assault, using a gun to commit a crime, and carrying a firearm as a convicted felon, and will be held without bond.
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