An arrest has been made in the shooting and attempted robbery of a University of Georgia club lacrosse player and the armed robbery of another student, Athens-Clarke County police said.
Zarren Garner, 20, of Grayson, was arrested in Gwinnett County early Tuesday morning, authorities said during a news conference. Athens-Clarke County police Chief Cleveland Spruill said they were able to identify Garner through a number of citizen tips and because of the man’s prior “low-level criminal background.”
The violent incidents Monday morning at an off-campus bus stop on South Milledge Avenue set off a “massive manhunt” involving multiple local, state and federal agencies, Spruill said.
“Few incidents are more concerning than a young man standing at the bus stop, waiting to go to college, that is accosted by an armed assailant, robbed and shot,” he said.
The wounded student, identified as Tate Prezzano, 22, was taken to a hospital with serious injuries after he was shot multiple times in the upper part of his body.
Prezzano’s father spoke during the news conference, telling reporters his son is stable and getting the rest he needs. While Tate Prezanno has been unable to speak with his family, Dobbin Prezzano said his son is aware of his surroundings and has given a thumbs up.
“It was a pretty tough day (Monday),” he said. “He did get some good rest. We look forward to him taking some small steps to recovery later today.”
Prezzano, who is part of UGA’s club lacrosse team after playing lacrosse and football at Cambridge High School in Milton, is a junior communications major.
Mike D’Andraia, Prezzano’s former coach at Cambridge, said he visited each year to help younger players, according to Channel 2 Action News.
“He coached with me every summer at our youth program, works at my camp every summer. The kids all love him. The parents all love him. Just an awesome personality,” D’Andraia said.
The second UGA student was also robbed at gunpoint near the bus stop, which is just south of campus and the Athens Perimeter. That student was not hurt in the incident, which occurred moments before Prezzano was shot. He was able to give police a description of the robber used to create a sketch of the suspect.
The sketch depicted the suspect with medium-length braids or dreads. Investigators believe Garner cut his braids off in order to hide from police, Channel 2 Action News reported.
Not long after the sketch was released Monday afternoon, GBI Special Agent Mike Ayers said tips started pouring in from community members.
“They contacted us, they put us in the right direction, and they gave us the push forward to be able to develop a suspect and to be able to make an arrest in this case,” he said. “It is a prime example of what happens when people work collectively as a team. And that’s what we’ve had great success with in this investigation.”
More than 50 officers with Athens-Clarke police, the GBI, UGA police and other agencies worked on the case through the night, Ayers said.
Dobbin Prezzano thanked the greater Athens and University of Georgia communities for their support of his family. Gov. Brian Kemp even made a phone call, Prezzano said.
Doctors will begin tests to determine the extent of the damage.
“Based on what Tate went through, gunshots in and around his head and neck area, we are blessed and thankful for the conversation that we're having today,” he said. “It could have been a lot different.”
Garner is being held without bond in the county jail on two counts each of aggravated assault and armed robbery.
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