A detective with the Columbus Police Department testified Monday that a 39-year-old Black man who was arrested in connection with the shooting of five people – including four White men – told detectives his actions were racially motivated.
According to Ledger-Enquirer, Detective Brandon Lockhart testified that the accused, identified as Justin Tyran Roberts, told investigators he targeted and shot the White men last weekend because he felt that “White males had taken from him” throughout his life.
Lockhart’s testimony came during Roberts’ appearance at the Columbus Recorder’s Court in connection with one of the shooting incidents. In that particular incident, Roberts allegedly shot at a White man under the Oglethorpe Bridge while he was entering his car. One of the bullets hit the victim in the back while four other bullets struck his car. And following his arrest, Lockhart testified Roberts told investigators, “I had to have him.”
Asked by public defender Robin King to further explain what Roberts told the police during interrogation, Lockhart said: “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.”
Lockhart also testified Robert stated that such men were “shooting at him in a wooded area with a slingshot,” adding that he had sustained injuries and skin infection as a result, Ledger-Enquirer reported. The police, however, did not detect any injuries in relation to his claim.
During the hearing, King requested for Roberts to undergo a mental health evaluation, telling the court, “The officer’s testimony has demonstrated that Mr. Roberts is having delusions and a disconnect from reality.” Judge Julius Hunter approved King’s request.
Roberts has been denied bond and he is being held on charges of aggravated assault, using a gun to commit a crime and being a convicted felon with a firearm. But these charges are just for Saturday’s incident.
On the day before Saturday’s shooting, Phenix City police said Roberts allegedly shot and injured another White man while he was exiting his vehicle. The accused is expected to be separately charged in Alabama for that incident, Ledger-Enquirer reported.
Hours after that shooting, Roberts also allegedly shot two White men and one Black woman. And for that shooting, he faces a slew of charges including three counts of aggravated assault and a count each of using a gun to commit a crime and being a convicted felon with a firearm.
Following the shootings, Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon said there’s no evidence to indicate Roberts was familiar with the victims. Blackmon also assured residents their safety is guaranteed.
“Uptown is safe. These recent shooting incidents that occurred in the last 24 hours have been isolated incidents,” said Blackmon. “We have not received any information that would indicate there was anyone else involved in these shooting incidents other than the person we have in custody.”