SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Residents of a Savannah, Georgia neighborhood are calling Damian Austin a hero for detaining a man accused of raping a woman in a grocery store bathroom.
Nexstar’s WSAV obtained exclusive security footage showing the exact moment Austin took down the suspect, 25-year-old, Gregory Hathorne.
Austin says he was shopping at a nearby Kroger store when he heard a woman scream from the bathroom.
“It made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck because it wasn’t a normal yell,” Austin recalled.
He said a bit of chaos erupted in the Berwick store, and he quickly realized what had happened.
“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,” said Austin.
It’s the kind of situation that would cause many to run in the other direction, but not Austin. The former Marine chased Hathorne through the parking lot and ended up in the back of the nearby Ace Hardware store.
The surveillance video shows Austin approach Hathorne with a gun.
“I told him to put his hands in the air. He complied and put them up,” said Austin. “I told him to get on the ground, and he tried to say something, and I said: ‘Don’t say a word.'”
Moments later, a woman in the parking lot jumped in to help Austin detain the suspect.
“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,” said Austin.
“I kept drawing on him and making sure he didn’t move,” he added.
Police officers eventually arrived on the scene. The video shows Hathorne in handcuffs being taken into custody.
Austin’s bravery didn’t go unnoticed. Cameras captured the moment when Ace Hardware’s store manager came to express his appreciation:
“There are 100 bucks on that, and we appreciate what you did,” the manager said as he passed Austin a gift card.
Austin said he wasn’t looking for accolades, but appreciated the kind gesture.
“It was just an awesome thing that you did and we just appreciate it,” said the manager.
“Thank you, sir,” replied Austin.
Austin says it feels good to know his community is safer, and he hopes the victim finds some comfort in knowing her suspected attacker is behind bars.
“I immediately thought, ‘my wife shops here, I have friends whose wives shop here, my son works here,'” said Austin. “So it was just about not letting this person get away after he did what he did.”
Austin says he hasn’t spoken with the victim but says he and his family are sending her prayers.
“I just hope this doesn’t dictate her life from this point on,” said Austin.
“There are people who still care, and they’ll act in time of need,” he added.
Police say they are still processing evidence and interviewing other witnesses. Kroger did not immediately respond to questions about whether or not the store will change safety protocols.