Crime

Angry at another man, accused killer shot friend who intervened, Columbus police say

A visibly angry Carlo Hatcher Jr. came after another man twice outside a Columbus gas station on a Saturday afternoon before he gunned down Jordan Rivers when Rivers tried to intervene, a detective testified Thursday in Recorder’s Court.

Hatcher had not come after Rivers, but Rivers’ friend Jimmy Person, who twice ran into the Citgo station at 1431 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. to get away, Sgt. Jeff Kraus told Judge Julius Hunter.

Person later told detectives he and Rivers, 21, were standing outside the service station’s east side when Hatcher drove up in a gold or tan Chevrolet Malibu, got out and rushed at Person, yelling and gesturing wildly as Person ran into the convenience store, where Hatcher followed, still yelling at him.

The station’s video surveillance recorded the confrontation, Kraus said. “He was obviously very upset,” he said of Hatcher.

Hatcher went back to his car and left, and Person walked back outside to be with Rivers.

In about three minutes, the Impala came back, pulling into the business’ parking lot from Murray Street, and Person again ran into the store, Kraus said. This time Rivers approached the car with his empty hands held up and out, and Hatcher got out and shot him, the detective said.

Person saw the shooting, but the store cameras didn’t capture it on video, Kraus said.

Hatcher ran behind the store and fled up Murray Street as the Impala headed west on the boulevard. Witnesses reported having seen a front-seat passenger who could have driven the car after Hatcher ran. Kraus said police believe they have identified the woman who was with Hatcher, but they have not located her.

In about two minutes, the Impala came back on the boulevard and turned onto Murray Street in the direction Hatcher had run, the officer said.

Hunting Hatcher

Though footage from the store cameras doesn’t show Hatcher with a gun, witnesses who heard gunshots from across the street reported seeing Hatcher standing over Rivers immediately afterward, and police found a bullet casing at the scene, Kraus said.

The shooting was reported at 1:02 p.m. Oct. 19. Police that same day disseminated still images from the store video, asking the public’s help identifying the gunman. “It’s actually very, very clear video,” Kraus said.

The response was immediate: Police got multiple tips from callers saying they recognized Hatcher. The next day, Hatcher’s family came to police headquarters, and confirmed he was on the video.

Hatcher’s father reported his son told him he was at the gas station when someone tried to get into his car, and he was compelled to shoot the intruder, Kraus said. Hatcher’s grandmother said her grandson told her two people attacked him outside the business, and he had to shoot one of them.

When police asked Person why Hatcher was so angry, Person said Hatcher accused him of approaching his car while it was parked outside a hospital, but Person had no idea what he was talking about, Kraus said. Person said he’d never seen Hatcher before.

U.S. Marshals arrested Hatcher at a home in Eufaula, Ala., on Oct. 31, and he was extradited back to Columbus.

‘Castle doctrine’

Hunter found probable cause Thursday to send the murder case to Muscogee Superor Court, ordering Hatcher, 26, held without bond.

Hatcher’s defense attorney, Mark Shelnutt, said he believes Hatcher has a self-defense claim under state law, which says Georgians have the same right to use deadly force to defend their motor vehicles as they do to defend their homes.

“The last thing that was seen on tape was the deceased making motions, going toward my client’s car,” he said.

“When you’re in your car, you have a right to defend yourself if someone’s even trying to make any kind of violent entry toward the car or motions toward your habitation…. The legislature has extended that beyond your house, to include your place of business and your automobile.”

This is commonly called the “castle doctrine,” giving residents the right to defend themselves in those circumstances.

Once the defense has reviewed the evidence, it can ask a Superior Court judge to dismiss the murder case, he said: “We’ll be filing a motion to have the case dismissed based on immunity, because there’s a provision in the law that says that if you’re acting in defense of your habitation, you’re immune from prosecution.”

After Thursday’s hearing, the families of the victim and defendant got into a brief confrontation outside the courtroom, but police and sheriff’s deputies quickly separated them.

Anyone with more information on the shooting may contact Kraus at 706-225-4374 or dkraus@columbusga.org.

Tim Chitwood is from Seale, Ala., and started as a police beat reporter with the Ledger-Enquirer in 1982. He since has covered Columbus’ serial killings and other homicides, following some from the scene of the crime to trial verdicts and ensuing appeals. He also has been a Ledger-Enquirer humor columnist since 1987. He’s a graduate of Auburn University, and started out working for the weekly Phenix Citizen in Phenix City, Ala.
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