Five military men were jailed on felony charges this morning and accused of severely beating a man in the street in downtown Columbus.
The 21-year-old victim, a former Fort Benning soldier, was hospitalized with multiple injuries, police said, including a broken nose, several lacerations to the face, a swollen eye and possible bleeding in the brain.
Booked into the Muscogee County Jail on aggravated battery charges were: Raymond E. Crowder III, 20, Shawn H. Kaverman, 26, Tyler Browning, 20, Dillon Fisher, 25, and Nathan J. Smajda, 23. All five are affiliated with the U.S. Army, public defender Charles Lykins said.
The alleged beating happened about 2:30 a.m. at First Avenue and 10th Street. Police said four of the men jumped out of a white Chevy Avalanche and assaulted the victim, who was returning to his vehicle.
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"They were just beating the crap out of this man," a witness to the fight said at a Recorder's Court hearing this morning.
A witness who tried to intervene received an elbow to the face, police said.
According to police, Fisher threw the first punch. He testified at the hearing that he had previous altercations with the victim.
Smajda climbed on top of the victim at one point and beat him while he was on the ground, police said, and he also elbowed the witness in the face. He's charged with battery with physical visible harm and disorderly conduct while intoxicated in addition to the aggravated battery charge.
Kaverman also was charged with disorderly while intoxicated.
Police said Crowder was the driver in the incident, and that Browning had no physical contact with the victim but failed to report the assault.
After the beating, the men allegedly got back in their vehicle and drove away. Police pulled the vehicle over on Victory Drive, and witnesses identified the men as the assailants.
At the preliminary hearing this morning, Lykins, the public defender, seemed to dispute the charge of aggravated battery in the case, a felony that carries a sentence between one and 20 years upon conviction. Georgia law says someone commits an aggravated battery "when he or she maliciously causes bodily harm to another by depriving him or her of a member of his or her body, by rendering a member of his or her body useless, or by seriously disfiguring his or her body or a member thereof."
Police, however, said they went to the hospital this morning to check on the victim and were told he may have memory loss. They also pointed out that he has a temporary loss of vision in addition to the rest of his injuries, which are not considered life threatening.
Elsie Jackson, a Fort Benning spokeswoman, said she could not provide information about the defendants' military status until Monday. Lykins said at least four of the defendants listed U.S. Army as their occupation, adding one may have listed Army Reserve.
Each man pleaded not guilty to the charges. Recorder's Court Judge Cynthia Maisano found probable cause on each charge and bound the cases to Superior Court. Browning has been released on a $5,000 bond, jail officials said.