The Columbus man accused of killing a man early Saturday at a family gathering on Grant Road said he shot the victim in self-defense during an argument about cigarettes.
Eddie Clayton, 34, pleaded not guilty to murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime on Tuesday in Columbus Recorder’s Court. He was ordered held without bond in the Muscogee County Jail.
Columbus police were called to a house near the intersection of Grant Road and Wilson Street around 12:40 a.m. Saturday to check on an incident where shots were fired.
When detectives arrived at the scene, they learned that 32-year-old Robert Lockhart was shot at the residence. His wife had already transported him to Midtown Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead of multiple gunshot wounds at 3:27 a.m.
Sgt. Joseph Hart said further investigation indicated that Clayton and Lockhart got into a physical altercation at a family gathering at Clayton’s home. Lockhart was invited there, officials said.
According to police, the dispute had ended when the defendant went to his bedroom, grabbed a gun and shot the victim in the leg.
“At that time, the physical altercation continued,” Hart testified. “After they were broken apart, the defendant then fired six more times, striking the victim three times in the back and three times in the left side.”
Hart said Clayton, who has known the victim for years, initially told detectives on the scene that there was no dispute. Later on, he allegedly told them there was a dispute and the victim refused to leave his home.
Clayton told the court that he and Lockhart went to the gas station and purchased a pack of cigarettes together. He said he got into argument with the victim about Lockhart giving some of those cigarettes to a woman.
They were still arguing about it when they returned to the house, the defendant testified.
“I went to walk in my house, and he attacked me from the back,” Clayton told the court. “As soon as I hit the floor, I got up and went and got my gun to tell him to leave.”
Clayton said he shot Lockhart once in the leg before the man continued to attack him.
“We started rolling some more on the floor, so the other shots probably happened as we were rolling around on the floor,” Clayton testified.
The defendant told the court that the additional shots weren’t intentional.
“I was not trying to shoot him like that, and I was definitely not trying to kill him,” Clayton said. “It was a self-defense thing. I panicked. I snapped because he attacked me in my home and I wanted him to be gone.”
Clayton told the court he had wounds on his face from Lockhart striking him with an object as he went through a doorway.
Attorney William Kendrick reiterated Clayton’s statement about the incident being self-defense and asked that the judge dismiss the charges. He said his client had a right to defend himself against someone attacking him in his home.
“He not only has right to defend his person,” Kendrick told the court, “he has a right to defend his home.”
Hunter denied the attorney’s motion. He said Hart’s testimony about the defendant allegedly retrieving his weapon after the dispute presented enough evidence for him to bound the case over to Superior Court.
Columbus police said Lockhart was one of two men who were shot and killed on Saturday.
Authorities said Donald Matthews, a 26-year-old active duty solider at Fort Benning, was shot at the intersection of Veterans Parkway and River Road around 1:49 a.m.
Marcus Theodore Wiggins, 27, was arrested in Lee County Monday afternoon and charged with murder in the shooting. He was extradited to Columbus and booked into the Muscogee County Jail.