Damian Austin has been hailed a hero by residents of Savannah, Georgia, after he detained a man accused of raping a woman inside a grocery store bathroom.
According to Austin, he had been shopping in the Kroger store when he heard a scream coming from the bathroom.
“It made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck because it wasn’t a normal yell,” he said. “A lady behind me just said ‘he raped that girl in the bathroom,’ and once she said that there was nothing else for me to do besides go out the door after him.”
He stated that chaos had erupted in the store, so he decided to take action. The former Marine chased the suspect, 25-year-old Gregory Hathorne, out through the store’s parking lot, and they ended up in the back of nearby Ace Hardware store.
Surveillance footage captured Austin approaching Hathorne with a gun.
Austin said: “I told him to put his hands in the air. He complied and put them up. I told him to get on the ground, and he tried to say something, and I said: ‘Don’t say a word.'”
A woman in the parking lot rushed to help detain Hathorne.
He said: “She went inside the store. A minute later she came out with a pack of large zip ties, and so she pulled out a couple and walked over there.”
“I kept drawing on him and making sure he didn’t move,” he added.
Police eventually showed up at the scene, with surveillance footage showing Hathorne in handcuffs as he was taken into custody.
Austin was rewarded for his bravery, with the manager of Ace Hardware rushing over to express his gratitude.
“There are 100 bucks on that, and we appreciate what you did,” the manager said as he gave Austin a gift card.
Austin said he wasn’t looking for praise, but appreciated the kind gesture.
“It was just an awesome thing that you did and we just appreciate it,” the manager added.
“Thank you, sir,” Austin replied.
Austin stated that he felt good that his community was a little bit safer, and hoped that the victim derived some comfort from the fact that her suspected attacker was behind bars.
“I immediately thought, ‘my wife shops here, I have friends whose wives shop here, my son works here' So it was just about not letting this person get away after he did what he did,” he said.
Austin hasn’t talked to the victim, but stated that he and his family are sending her prayers.
“I just hope this doesn’t dictate her life from this point on. There are people who still care, and they’ll act in time of need,” he added.
Police stated that they were still processing evidence and interviewing witnesses.
Kroger has not responded to questions about whether the store will change its safety protocols.