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NEW DETAILS: Police say weekend shooting incidents were racially motivated

Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 10:02 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - According to police testimony in court Monday morning, 39-year-old Justin Roberts is the man responsible for three separate shootings where five people were injured over the weekend - two were in Uptown Columbus while the other was in the parking lot of a Phenix City hotel.

A Columbus police detective says that Roberts admitted to the crimes, but his attorney says he is pleading “not guilty”.

Roberts was not physically present in court Monday, but Assistant Public Defender Robin King requested a psychiatric evaluation on his behalf. The case now moves to Superior Court and the state has asked, because of a lengthy criminal history, that bond be denied.

The charges brought against Roberts are aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, theft by receiving stolen property, and the list goes on and on for charges Roberts is facing, just in Muscogee County.

A hate crime charge could also be in his future. In Recorder’s Court Monday, Detective Brandon Lockhart said that Roberts had an agenda against “military-looking white males”.

Police say Roberts explained that, throughout his life, white males had taken from him, white males were shooting at him in the woods with a slingshot, and the wounds had infected his skin.

According to police, Roberts also shot a Black woman and an Asian male.

“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,” said Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon. “Any incident or shooting incident, any crime that occurs in Columbus - we take it very seriously at the Columbus Police Department.”

“That’s terrorism, but we can’t be afraid of terrorism and I have to teach my kids - we have to trust in God and pray that the bad people get caught,” said Arlesia Hudson, a Columbus resident.

According to Uptown Columbus, Inc. President Ed Wolverton, Uptown Columbus has a regular police presence. He tells News Leader 9 that this was an isolated incident and he says uptown is still safe.

“We provide a number of police, that are working, they’re on duty or off duty to provide that extra security for clients, customers, and workers, and we take this personally in terms of making sure uptown and downtown are safe,” added Wolverton.

Police say Justin Roberts also has an extensive criminal history. News Leader 9 obtained a copy of his record and he has arrests dating back to 2010. The most recent one was August of last year.

Muscogee County Sheriff Greg Countryman tells News Leader 9 that Roberts is a danger to society and he’s glad the Columbus Police Department reacted so swiftly with locating and arresting the 39 year old.

“Because if they had not done that, it was no telling, what other crime he may have committed and so I definitely commend the Columbus police department for their dedication and hard work on this,” said Countryman.

Roberts’ history consists of multiple crimes such as battery, criminal trespassing, drug possession, and food stamp fraud.

Anyone with information about the weekend shooting incidents should contact the Columbus Police Department.

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