A Marine veteran is being hailed as a hero after pursuing a rape suspect and then holding him at gunpoint for the police after the man allegedly sexually assaulted a woman in a Kroger bathroom.
The incident took place in broad daylight on April 27 at a Kroger store in Savannah, Georgia.
Shoppers said they heard a woman’s bone-chilling scream coming from the store’s restroom. Then her attacker ran out of the restroom and allegedly tried to flee the scene of the crime. Damian Austin wasn’t about to let that happen and gave chase.
“It made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck because it wasn’t a normal yell,” Austin commented to KFOR.
(Video Credit: WSAV3)
There was confusion in the store as people realized what had happened.
“A lady behind me just said ‘he raped that girl in the bathroom,’ and once she said that, there was nothing else for me to do besides go out the door after him,” he remarked.
The armed Marine ran down the man at the back of a nearby Ace Hardware store and then held him at gunpoint. “He locked eyes with me and I looked at him and I said, ‘give it up brother because I’m not.’ I told him to put his hands in the air. He complied and put them up…I told him to get on the ground, and he tried to say something, and I said: ‘Don’t say a word.’”
Surveillance video recorded the altercation.
Austin recounted how a woman brought out to him a pack of zip ties which he used to cuff the suspect: “She went inside the store. A minute later she came out with a pack of large zip ties, and so she pulled out a couple and walked over there,” Austin recounted. “I kept drawing on him and making sure he didn’t move,” he said.
Police arrived and arrested the suspect, hauling him off in handcuffs. He has now been identified as 25-year-old Gregory Hathorne.
The Ace Hardware store manager gave Austin a $100 gift card in appreciation of his bravery.
“There are 100 bucks on that, and we appreciate what you did,” the manager told the Marine who demurred, but then graciously accepted and thanked him for the kind offer, noting that he didn’t do it for the attention, he did it because it was the right and necessary thing to do.
Austin explained that his wife shops at that store and he knows a lot of people in the area. Austin said he just wanted to make sure his neighborhood was safe.
“I immediately thought, ‘my wife shops here, I have friends whose wives shop here, my son works here,'” he noted. “So it was just about not letting this person get away after he did what he did.”
Austin hasn’t spoken with the victim yet but he says he and his family are praying for her. “I just hope this doesn’t dictate her life from this point on,” stated Austin. “There are people who still care, and they’ll act in time of need,” he proclaimed.
Chatham County Police Department Chief Jeff Hadley praised the bravery demonstrated by Austin and others who assisted in apprehending Hathorne: “I just can’t commend them enough for involving themselves in a dangerous situation obviously, so this person could be held accountable and we could make an arrest so there wasn’t any further danger to the community.”
Police are still processing evidence and they are interviewing other witnesses. Hathorne is facing charges of felony rape, felony kidnapping, and misdemeanor battery. He is being held without bond in the Chatham County Detention Center according to the Chatham County Police Department.
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