Byron Booker, right, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022, to the 2020 murder of Spc. Austin Hawk, left. Booker, who had been kicked out of the Army, admitted that he had entered Fort Stewart through an unguarded gate and stabbed Hawk 40 times as the 21-year-old slept. Photo of Austin Hawk via GoFundMe. Photo of Byron Booker courtesy of the Department of Justice.
Just after midnight on June 17, 2020, a former soldier named Byron Booker left his home near Fort Stewart, Georgia, intentionally leaving behind his cell phone. He wanted police to trace it and believe he had never left.
Booker drove to a Fort Stewart gate he knew was unguarded, entered the base, and walked a mile to reach Barracks Building 3006, where he knew that Spc. Austin J. Hawk would be asleep in room 208.
Booker had been a sergeant while Hawk was a well-liked soldier in Fort Stewart’s 92nd Chemical Company. Hawk had reported Booker to their chain of command for marijuana use, “poor leadership, poor military performance, and maltreatment of subordinates,” according to federal authorities. And Booker had found out.
When Booker got into Hawk’s room, he stabbed Hawk 40 times.
Spc. Austin Hawk was murdered by a former fellow soldier in June 2020. Photo via GoFundMe.
Then he walked the mile back to the gate, quickly got rid of his bloody clothes, and disappeared.
Booker, who was arrested the next day, pleaded guilty to Hawk’s murder Thursday, Oct. 27, in federal court and now faces spending the rest of his life in prison under minimum sentencing laws. Federal prison has no parole.
“Byron Booker murdered a former fellow soldier in cold blood in retaliation for that soldier performing his duties as a service member,” US Attorney Estes, a retired Army colonel, said in a Department of Justice 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.”
Booker’s co-defendant in Hawk’s killing still faces charges of conspiring with Booker. Jordan Brown, 21, of St. Marys, Georgia, still faces a slew of charges for helping Booker’s plan for “silencing” Hawk, federal prosecutors said.
Hawk’s murder led Fort Stewart to add 8-foot fencing and razor wire where Booker had entered the base.
On a GoFundMe page set up after Hawk’s death to defray costs of attending Booker’s trial, his mother wrote: “Austin loved his family and friends. Austin leaves behind his parents Andrew and Julie Hawk, his disabled older brother and his twin sister. The heinous murder of Austin has left his family devastated. They are in disbelief to find out their beloved son was murdered by his fellow servicemen. No family should have to endure what Austin’s family have had to go through. It is unimaginable to realize your child who is serving his country would be murdered by the very people who he called his brothers.”
Matt White is a former senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism.
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