A former Army sergeant has pleaded guilty to killing a fellow soldier inside the barracks on Fort Stewart, Georgia, two years ago, according to the Justice Department.
Byron Booker, 29, of Ludowici, Georgia, pleaded guilty to the premeditated murder of Spc. Austin Hawk on June 17, 2020, after Hawk reported his fellow soldiers for marijuana use, Justice officials said in a press release.
Hawk, Booker and Booker’s alleged accomplice, former Spc. Jordan Brown, were all assigned to the 92nd Chemical Company, 83rd Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Battalion, on Fort Stewart.
On May 2, 2020, Hawk made a report to his command about Brown and Booker’s use of marijuana, according to court records.
Days later, Booker received an honorable discharge, but Brown, who had more time in service left, now faced a court martial after failing a follow-on drug test.
In an effort to get back at Hawk, Brown and Booker came up with multiple plans to “silence” him and get revenge for the report, court documents stated.
Brown was angry that Hawk had cost him his paycheck, his girlfriend — who broke up with him amid news of the court martial — his housing, and potentially his relationship with his father, court documents stated. Enraged with Hawk, Brown agreed to Booker’s plan to murder Hawk for being a “snitch,” the court records added.
While on duty, Brown helped Booker get access to the barracks, according to court records. Booker then managed to get Hawk to open his barracks door, the plea agreement stated, but details as to how were not given.
Court records also said that Brown was not in the room at the time of the attack.
At about midnight on June 17, Booker stabbed Hawk more than 40 times, with wounds made to his head, neck and torso, according to prosecutors. Booker also made a fatal three-inch cut across Hawk’s throat that he could not have survived, according to an autopsy cited in court documents.
Booker is awaiting sentencing. As part of his his plea agreement, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison. Parole is not offered in the federal system.
“Byron Booker murdered a former fellow soldier in cold blood in retaliation for that soldier performing his duties as a service member,” U.S. Attorney David H. Estes, also a retired Army colonel, said in the press release. “The FBI and the Department of the Army Criminal Investigative Division did outstanding work in solving this despicable crime and bringing Booker to justice.”
Brown, Booker’s co-defendant, is awaiting trial on charges of pre-meditated murder, assault, conspiracy to retaliate against a witness, retaliation against a witness with bodily injury and retaliation against a witness with killing.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran and a master's candidate at New York University's Business & Economic Reporting program.