Martinez teen kills Grovetown man during burglary

Fatal shooting was 'justifiable'



For the second time this week, an armed Columbia County resident stopped a burglary – this time, with fatal results for a would-be burglar.

Justin Anthony Stephens, 19, of Grovetown, was killed Wednesday night after breaking into a Martinez apartment, where the renter’s son shot him with a .22-caliber rifle, according to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

Stephens and an unidentified accomplice knocked on the door of Bruce Barrett’s Petersburg Square apartment at about 7:30 p.m., sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris said. When Barrett cracked the door, the two men, dressed in black with bandanas over their faces, forced their way inside and struggled with Barrett and his 15-year-old son.

“The 15-year-old broke free, retrieved his father’s .22-caliber rifle and fired at least two shots,” Morris said, adding that Stephens was shot in the back.

Stephens was found on the ground just outside the apartment, Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

An autopsy Thursday performed at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Augusta determined that Stephens died from the gunshot to his back, in which the bullet lodged in his chest. He also was shot a second time in the left arm, Collins said.

“His actions are to be commended,” Morris said of the teen.

The 15-year-old will not be charged because his actions are considered justifiable homicide, Morris said.

Barrett is a bus driver for the Columbia County school system, and his wife, Kathleen, was home at the time of the incident.

Stephens’ accomplice ran away. Authorities set up a perimeter, but never found the second burglar, described as a short black man wearing all black and a bandana on his face.

“We activated the communicator (Columbia County Emergency Notification System) for that area alerting residents as to what just occurred,” Morris said.

Land lines are automatically included in the system, which sends voice or e-mail messages in a crisis. Residents can register their cellphone or e-mail address by visiting the sheriff’s office Web site at

On Monday morning, a Harlem resident confronted a suspicious man trying to break into his neighbor’s home and held him until deputies arrived. Two people have been charged in that incident.


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