Police: Citizens detained rape suspect at Kroger until police arrived

ByWTOC Staff|April 28, 2021 at 5:14 AM EDT - Updated April 28 at 9:32 PM

CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - The Chatham County Police Department has arrested a suspect after a woman was reportedly attacked and sexually assaulted inside a Berwick grocery store on Tuesday, April 27.

Gregory Hathorne (Source: Chatham County Police Department)

Gregory Hathorne, 25, has been charged with felony rape, felony kidnapping and misdemeanor battery.

Chatham County officers were called to the Kroger grocery store located on Ogeechee Road in the Berwick area at approximately 6:30 p.m. to respond to a sexual assault.

The victim, an adult female, told police she was attacked and raped by a stranger in the Kroger restroom. Chatham County Police Chief Jeff Hadley says the victim and suspect had no prior contact and that the suspect was new to the area.

According to police, witnesses told police they heard the woman and several people in the store chased the suspect as he attempted to run from the scene. The suspect was restrained by people in the shopping plaza until police arrived.

The victim was transported to the hospital and is receiving services from the Rape Crisis Center.

A statement from the Kroger corporation is below:

“The safety and security of our customers and associates are our top priority. We would like the thank the Chatham County Police Department for their quick response. We are working with CCPD as they move forward with their investigation.”

Witness describes how citizens captured the suspect

One of the witnesses said he was going to Kroger to buy steaks to grill for dinner when he heard a scream from the front of the store.

Damien Austin says his military training took over as he rushed to help.

“When I got to the front of the store, looked over towards the bathroom I saw people pointing and then I just heard someone behind me say, ‘He raped that girl in the bathroom’ and when I heard that I just zoned out,” Austin said.

Unlike most, Austin is use to responding in difficult times being a Marine, security guard and more. He knew as he was shopping with his wife he had to act and pursued the suspect who was running from the store behind a delivery truck.

“When I saw him come from around the back of the truck, he came from around the back of the truck, he locked eyes with me and I looked at him and I said, ‘give it up brother because I’m not,’” Austin said.

Sure enough, he didn’t. Austin, with help from others, was able to get the suspect to the ground and says they zip tied him until police arrived.

The Chatham County Police chief says he is grateful for their help.

“I just can’t commend them enough for involving themselves in a dangerous situation obviously, so this person could be held accountable and we could make an arrest so there wasn’t any further danger to the community,” Chief Jeff Hadley said.

The police investigation continues.

Damien Austin says it was great to see how shoppers worked together to help capture the suspect.

“To the family of the young lady and also to the young lady, I want to offer my sincerest most heartfelt prayers to you and your family, and I really hope young ma’am that you do not let this scar you too bad and dictate how you live your life from now on. Just know that there are guardian angels out there, there are people who do care, and I just want you like I said to be blessed and I am praying for you and your family,” Austin said.

He says he’s grateful he was able to help, but doesn’t want the praise and this situation is another reminder to be alert and on the lookout for others.

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Photo: Savannah Police Department

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