Atlanta fringe group linked to Fayetteville home at center of deadly shooting

Black Hammer leader charged in connection to alleged kidnapping

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

The home linked to Tuesday’s SWAT standoff, alleged kidnapping and deadly shooting in Fayetteville is a communal house of Atlanta-based extremist organization, the Black Hammer Party, whose leader was arrested in connection to the episode, according to police.

The group’s leader, Augustus C. Romain, 36, was charged with 11 felony counts, including party to the crime of false imprisonment, party to the crime of kidnapping, party to the crime of aggravated assault, criminal street gang activity, criminal conspiracy to commit a felony and aggravated sodomy, according to a press release issued Wednesday by the Fayetteville Police Department.

A second person who lived at the home, Xavier H. Rushin, 21, was charged in the incident with a misdemeanor and 10 felonies, including kidnapping, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal street gang activity, the release said.

Credit: Fayette County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Fayette County Sheriff's Office

Fayetteville Police said they received a 911 call Tuesday morning at 7:48 a.m. from “a person whispering that they had been kidnapped by an organization and was being held in the garage of a residence.” Police said they located the residence by tracing the call.

The hours-long standoff, which resulted in a neighborhood shelter-in-place order, ended Tuesday afternoon when officers discovered a person inside the home shot dead, police said.

When officers responded to the residence in the Woodbyne subdivision off White Road, a group of nine people exited the home, but one person remained inside, a police press release said.

Police observed a person waving their hand from a garage window, the release said. Officers also approached a person outside the residence and they attempted to flee, the release said. The police press release did not identify that person.

The shelter-in-place order remained in effect for several hours as a SWAT unit responded. Police eventually sent a robot into the home for further investigation and discovered a person who remained inside was dead, the spokesman said. With the robot’s help, the house was surveyed and the lockdown lifted around 2:15 p.m.

The deceased person was found in the home with a gunshot wound to the head. The Black Hammer group’s social media posts identified the man as one of their members. Police said the man was 18, but the AJC is not identifying him because he appears to be a suicide victim. Officials said they believe the gunshot wound to the head was self-inflicted.

The home at the center of the standoff was the fringe organization’s communal house known as the “Hammer House,” according to social media posts from Romain.

Romain, who uses they/them pronouns, goes by the name, Gazi Kodzo in their public persona. Kodzo has more than 40,000 followers on Facebook and the group aggressively fundraises using its social platforms.

The Black Hammer Party mixes Black nationalist rhetoric and a revolutionary message with hot-button issues like anti-vaccine myths and election conspiracies, the AJC previously reported. The organization has drawn hundreds of followers across the nation over the last two years.

Kodzo grew up in Stone Mountain and had attempted a career as a lifestyle blogger. Their online persona shifted over the years to become more political, eventually adopting more strident and extreme positions. By the end of 2020, Kodzo had emerged as the leader of the Black Hammer group.

The group’s members routinely carry firearms when they appear in public and Kodzo regularly boasts how their security detail is armed. People who have left the group have said that members in the group’s communal home are watched by armed guards.

Kodzo has given inflammatory interviews to conservative news sites, trashed American foreign policy for Russian journalists, and announced an alliance with the Proud Boys over shared conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election — all the while maintaining an active presence on social media. The group regularly gathers in downtown’s Woodruff Park to hand out food and clothing to the homeless as members proselytize over a megaphone.

In November, Atlanta police arrested several members of the group, including Kodzo, when they refused an order to turn down the amplifier that was violating the city’s noise ordinance, according to a police report. When the police went to arrest Kodzo other members of the group began pushing officers, according to the report.

Kodzo and several other Hammers were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction of police. Officers seized a .45-caliber handgun and two-way radios, among other items, according to the reports.

Last year, members of the group who were closest to Kodzo moved into a rented house in a suburban southside neighborhood in Riverdale. The group was evicted in December and owed $21,000 in unpaid rent, attorney’s fees and other charges, according to records in Clayton County State Court. Public records indicate the group then took up residence in the Fayetteville home that was the scene Tuesday’s shooting.

On Tuesday, Kodzo took to Facebook live to broadcast part of the standoff. In the video, uniform-clad officers from several law enforcement agencies can be seen lining the streets of the Fayetteville subdivision.

“This is just going to build me up at the end of the day, so thank you for that,” Romain said in the live video. “If you think that I’m concerned or anything like that, you’re out of your mind.”