Police say Gerald Hatchett's Labor Day killers were riding in a stolen U.S. government SUV

Tray Thomas was riding in a stolen sport-utility vehicle that belong to the U.S. government when he fatally shot Gerald Hatchett in Columbus' East Highland neighborhood on Labor Day night, police testified today in Recorder's Court.

Investigators said the vehicle later was found in Phenix City and still was being examined for evidence. They said four shell casings were recovered at the crime scene and another was found in the automobile, but the caliber of the bullets had not been identified.

Police said Thomas, 18, was identified by his intended victim, Jessie Favors, 17, who fled when the gunfire began and was not injured. Hatchett had been sitting with some friends in front of 1519 25th St., and a bullet hit him in the head as he got up to run, detectives said. He fell dead in front of the house next door.

Favors that night had just gotten out of a Honda Civic he said he had volunteered to return to its owner after the car had been traded for crack cocaine.

Favors had been among those in front of 1519 25th St. when a man identified only as “T.J.” drove up in the Civic and asked whether someone there would return it, Favors testified earlier in Recorder’s Court. He said he volunteered, and drove off in the car.

He dropped a passenger off on 27th Street and was returning to the 25th Street residence when he passed the dark SUV at 16th Avenue and 28th Street, he said. The SUV made a U-turn and followed him, and when he got out of the Civic on 25th Street, the SUV, occupied by three people, stopped there, he said.

Favors and the SUV’s occupants exchanged taunts, and someone in the SUV said, “Get him, bro,” detectives said. Then Thomas, a passenger in the SUV's right, rear passenger seat, fired four or five shots at Favors, who ran behind a house, officers said.

Judge Michael Joyner ordered Thomas held without bond and sent the case to Muscogee Superior Court. The man who allegedly drove the SUV, Marquise Roberts, already is being held without bond pending further proceedings. Police said neither Thomas nor Roberts have given them any statement about the incident, except that Roberts claimed he knew nothing about it.