A Columbus man who police identified as the thief shot by a homeowner while fleeing Monday afternoon’s McNeese Drive burglary appeared in Columbus Recorder’s Court this morning.
Brandon Rozier, 17, pleaded not guilty to two counts each of possession of firearm during the commission of a crime and possession of a pistol and one count each of first-degree burglary and theft by receiving stolen property. He was ordered held in the Muscogee County Jail under bonds totaling $47,000.
The case was bound over to Superior Court.
Columbus Police Detective Joseph Austin said he was one of approximately three officers who responded to the residential burglary that occurred around 12:45 p.m. Monday in the 2900 block of McNeese Drive.
The victim said that when he arrived home, he found two unfamiliar vehicles in his driveway but didn’t expect any visitors.
As he was pulling into his driveway, he noticed four black male strangers leaving his house. One of the men yelled, “Oh, s---!”
He then loaded his .40 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol and exited his vehicle. At that time, two of the men had climbed into separate vehicles, according to the homeowner’s account of the incident.
“When I looked down to load my gun, I looked up and two (suspects) had jumped into the vehicle,” the homeowner told the court. “As I got out of my Jeep, one car sped off trying to run me over, so he initiated deadly force against me with that vehicle.”
He said he started shooting at the other vehicle as it traveling along the other side of the Jeep. He then noticed the two other suspects leaving his house. Both were dressed in a black hoodie and one appeared to have a silver pistol in his hand, according to the victim.
“Because I have other weapons in my house, I wasn’t sure if he had taken one of my weapons and was going to use it against me,” the homeowner said. “I identified him as a threat and started shooting at him.”
The victim told police on the scene that they all escaped, and he wasn’t sure whether he had struck the vehicles or suspects when he fired 12 shots. He couldn’t immediately recall exactly what they were wearing, but said one of them had dreadlocks, some of them were dressed in black clothes and one of them wore a red shirt or bandanna on his face.
Richard Thomason arrived home around 1 p.m. with his wife and three grandchildren when they heard gunshots. He ran into his house to call 911.
“As I came ran to the front, I heard automobile times screeching,” the neighbor said. “I observed two vehicles going up and down Vultee Drive at a high-rated speed.”
Thomason said then saw two young men jumping his neighbor’s fence across the street. He said the one who jumped over the fence first, who he identified as Rozier, looked directly at him.
“He was dressed in all black, and he had a red streak in his hair,” said Thomason, who believes the streak was blood. “He went on up between my other two neighbors’ house in the backyard, so I went to the back yard.”
The suspect tore down his other neighbor’s wooden fence and both suspects climbed through it.
Police confirmed that the homeowner’s door frame was kicked open. The items stolen along with $1,000 in cash included a 48-inch television worth $800 and a .12 gauge shotgun worth $180.
Austin said police found Rozier later that day near the Britt David Park concession stand between the softball field and football field. He was bleeding from the head.
Police determined that his injuries were consistent with a gunshot wound, but he said that wasn’t the case.
“He explained that he got the lacerations from falling down a hill in the park, but really couldn’t give a location of where that hill was,” Austin testified. “Prior to being transported back to the original scene, EMS responded. He refused treatment from that EMS unit.”
The defendant, who police said was in possession of a gun that had previously been reported stolen, was arrested and transported to the crime scene.
The victim and witnesses identified him as one of the suspects.
The homeowner, who police said has a valid Georgia conceal carry permit, was not charged.
“We do not anticipate any charges against the homeowner,” Slouchick said on Tuesday.
Attorney Michael Eddings, who represented Rozier, said he respects the victim’s right to fire his weapon in that circumstance, but he believes that he misidentified his client as the suspect. He said the defendant was on the way to his father’s house in the area of McNeese Drive at the time of the incident.
“The victim was firing multiple gunshots in the air. A stray bullet could have easily hit anyone in that area,” the attorney said. “My client more than likely got hit by a stray bullet on his way to his father’s house.”