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Police Say Gunman Who Shot 5 in 2 States Was Targeting 'White Males'

Newsweek logo Newsweek 6/15/2021 Ewan Palmer
a person posing for the camera: Justin Tyran Roberts, accused of shooting five people in Alabama and Georgia, told police the attacks were racially motivated. © Columbus Police Department Justin Tyran Roberts, accused of shooting five people in Alabama and Georgia, told police the attacks were racially motivated.

A man who is accused of shooting five people across two states is said to have purposely targeted white victims during the attacks.

Justin Tyran Roberts, 39, was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of wounding five people across Alabama and Georgia during a shooting spree that lasted 20 hours. Two of the shootings took place in Uptown Columbus while the other occurred in the parking lot of a hotel in Phenix City.

During a preliminary hearing at Columbus Recorder's Court on Monday, Columbus Police Detective Brandon Lockhart said that the suspect sought out to harm white men as he said he had been targeted himself.

"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 said, reported The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

Roberts also said that white men were "shooting at him in a wooded area with a slingshot," which broke his skin, although police reported the suspect had no injuries to back up these claims.

Roberts was not in court for a hearing concerning one of the shootings which took place near the Oglethorpe Bridge in Columbus at around 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Roberts is accused of shooting a man as he was getting into his vehicle.

Lockhart testified to the court that Roberts said, "I had to have him" with regards to the man he is accused of firing at several times, hitting him once in the back.

However, Roberts is also said to have admitted shooting a Black woman and an Asian male during the assaults.

Assistant Public Defender Robin King requested that Judge Julius Hunter order a mental health evaluation on Roberts' behalf, arguing that Lockhart's testimony shows the suspect is having "delusions and a disconnect from reality."

Roberts is currently charged with aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and theft by receiving stolen property—a gun.

He faces further charges for the shooting which took place in Phenix City, Alabama, at around 8:15 p.m. on Friday, June 11. Roberts could also be hit with an additional hate crime charge.

The 39-year-old is currently being held without bond.

Following Roberts' arrest, Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon assured the public that the area of Uptown area is safe.

"We want our citizens to know that there is no need to be in fear or to be apprehensive of getting about. We want everyone to continue to get out and know, we take this very seriously," Blackmon said, via WTVM.

"Any incident or shooting incident, any crime that occurs in Columbus—we take it very seriously at the Columbus Police Department."

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