According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia, two former soldiers have been indicted in U.S. District Court alleging a murder conspiracy after another soldier was found dead in his barracks room in June 2020.
In a newly unsealed federal indictment, Byron Booker, 28, of Ludowici, Ga., and Jordan Brown, 21, of St. Marys, Ga., are charged in the death of Specialist Austin J. Hawke, 24, at Fort Stewart Military Reservation, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.
Booker is charged with Premeditated Murder; and Murder of a Member of the U.S. Uniformed Services. In addition, both Booker and Brown are charged with Felony Murder; Conspiracy to Commit Assault Upon a Member of the U.S. Uniformed Services and to Commit Burglary; Assault Upon a Member of the U.S. Uniformed Services; Burglary; Conspiracy to Retaliate Against a Witness; and Retaliation Against a Witness. The statutory penalty for each of the murder charges upon conviction is death, or mandatory life in prison.
There is no parole in the federal system.
“It is a high priority for our office to pursue justice for members of the military who are victims of violent crime,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “We commend the FBI and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command and other law enforcement partners for their tireless and detailed work on this case.”
The 21-page indictment alleges that Booker and Brown conspired to commit the offenses against Hawk in retaliation for Hawk reporting Booker to U.S. Army leadership for “poor leadership, poor military performance, and maltreatment of subordinates” prior to Booker’s discharge from the U.S. Army, and in retaliation for Hawk reporting Brown for drug use during his service.
The indictment further alleges that Booker and Brown discussed “silencing” Hawk, and discussed Brown providing Booker with a key to access Hawk’s room. The indictment alleges that Booker drove from his home on or about June 17, 2020, to Fort Stewart, and entered the installation on foot before walking approximately one mile to Hawk’s barracks. The indictment then alleges that Booker killed Hawk by “stabbing, cutting, and slashing” him with an edged weapon, and that afterward Booker disposed of the clothing and shoes he was wearing at the time.
Booker has been in custody since June 18, 2020; Brown was taken into custody after a U.S. District Court grand jury returned the indictment during its April 2021 term. Both defendants await further legal proceedings.
Criminal indictments contain only charges; defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command and the FBI are investigating the case, which is being prosecuted for the United States by Southern District of Georgia Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer G. Solari and Frank Pennington, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Darron J. Hubbard.