AutoZone stabbing suspect makes first court appearance

If convicted, suspect could be sentenced under new Georgia hate crimes law

AutoZone stabbing suspect could be prosecuted under Georgia’s new hate crime laws

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - A suspect in the Tuesday morning stabbing of a Columbus AutoZone employee made his first court appearance and police testified about what they say led to the attack.

19-year-old Jayvon Hatchett was arrested this week after surveillance images were released by Columbus Police. Multiple tips came in from seeing those images leading police to look into Hatchett. Upon pulling his court records, it was determined that Hatchett was involved in a prior crime at home near the AutoZone location. Police went to that address to question and see if there might be knowledge of where Hatchett was currently.

“The neighbor told us to check next door,” Columbus Police Sgt. Raymond Mills said. “Myself and the other officers went to the door and Hatchett answered.”

Mills added in court testimony that Hatchett smiled at him and the other officers and told them it was about the Auto Zone stabbing.

Hatchett went on to admit to police that he did stab the 51-year-old white male at the AutoZone store on 32nd Street, according to courtroom testimony. Police say Hatchett was arrested and read Miranda Rights, but add he continued to talk to them about the case. In an effort to keep a search warrant from being served on the home he was found in, Hatchett provided a knife to police that he says he used to stab the victim in the store. He also provided a shirt that he grabbed from the backyard of the home that had been partially burned. The shirt matched the description of the of the clothing in the surveillance footage.

According to courtroom testimony, Police say Hatchett told them he had been watching videos on Facebook for hours of police shootings around the country. Police say he told them he decided during those videos he wanted to stab a white male.

Under the new hate crime law signed in the summer of 2020 by Governor Brian Kemp, committing a crime against someone intentionally based on their race allows for tougher sentencing. There is not a hate crime charge that can be added at the law enforcement level, but if proven in court the judge can add years to a prison sentence.

News Leader 9 spoke with incoming District Attorney about the new sentencing guidelines and if he felt they applied. Mark Jones said, “On the Auto Zone stabbing case, my thoughts are that if the allegations are true, then defendant should be charged with aggravated battery with a hate crime sentencing enhancement if convicted beyond a reasonable doubt. The reports of the Auto Zone incident are deeply concerning to me because I am committed to reducing violence in our great city. However, each case warrants a full and promptly investigation of the incident and we currently don’t know the entire story.”

Jones added, “The Hate Crime Bill imposes a mandatory imprisonment term as a sentencing enhancement on offenders who commit unjustified acts of violence solely on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, or physical disability. Our community must categorically reject unjustified violence, of any type, and we must use the law fully to that end.”

A District Attorney takes an oath to prosecute cases without fear, favor, or affection, and that’s what I intend to do come January 1, 2021 when I take the oath.”

The case against Hatchett is bound to Superior Court where he will face trial at a later date. He is being held without bond at this time.

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