Homeless man lay dead in downtown Macon for nearly two days before noticed

Suspect sought in attack that Bibb County sheriff’s officials say was caught on video.
Security camera footage of man identified as a suspect in the May 24 killing of a homeless man in downtown Macon. (Bibb County Sheriff's Office.)

Credit: Bibb County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Bibb County Sheriff's Office

Security camera footage of man identified as a suspect in the May 24 killing of a homeless man in downtown Macon. (Bibb County Sheriff's Office.)

MACON — As he lay sleeping in a downtown alley, all but invisible to passersby but barely a block from the steps of City Hall, a homeless man was beaten to death with a brick-like object. It took a day and a half before anyone realized he hadn’t moved.

Private security cameras in the alley captured footage of the May 24 attack and a clear view of the assailant, Bibb County Sheriff David Davis told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. A suspect has remained at large.

“We don’t have any solid information right now. But, if the person that did do this was a transient, then they probably have left town,” Davis said. “We’re not sure that the person who did it is himself homeless or not. But there seems not to be anybody that knows him or anybody that’s come forward to let us know who the person is.”

The alley where the victim, Albert Kenneth Knight Jr., 59, was beaten is a foot-traffic cut-through between Poplar and Cherry streets, two of the area’s busiest thoroughfares. The wide lane runs behind a long-razed building that once housed the flagship location of the town’s storied Nu-Way Weiners franchise. The site of the killing is about 100 feet from where the Otis Redding Center for the Arts is being built.

“As far as any kind of motivation or reason for doing it,” the sheriff said, “everything’s on the table right now.”

There have been no similar attacks reported here in recent months.

The alley in downtown Macon where Albert Kenneth Knight Jr. was beaten to death on May 24. (Joe Kovac Jr. / AJC)

Credit: Joe Kovac Jr.

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Credit: Joe Kovac Jr.

Sheriff’s officials have divulged only scant details of the possibly unprovoked episode, other than to issue statements that Knight was struck several times and died of “a severe head wound.”

On June 1, six days after Knight’s body was discovered, officials asked for the public’s help tracking down a suspect. They released video footage and screenshots of a man they believe attacked Knight. The suspect can be seen walking in the alley past the spot where the body was found.

Police have described the suspect as wearing blue jeans and black shoes, glasses, a baseball cap and a mint-green shirt that reads “Hilton Head Island Bike Shop.”

What they have not previously noted in news releases is how long Knight’s body had gone unnoticed. The alley is sometimes used by homeless people as a place to sleep. Passersby may have assumed Knight, his face and part of his body covered with a blanket, was resting.

“I wouldn’t think people were so callous that they saw him laying there and thought he was dead and didn’t call anybody,” Davis said Tuesday. “I think somebody came by there and saw him and … just noticed that he hadn’t moved and called (for help).”

According to a sheriff’s deputy’s incident report, Knight was asleep at the time of the attack. His body, found shortly before noon on May 26, a Sunday, had been there since about 8 p.m. the Friday before.

The deputy who answered the call wrote in the report that “I uncovered his face and observed blood … and ants covering his face.”

Sister Theresa Sullivan, director of Daybreak Day Resource Center, a daytime shelter for the homeless on the eastern edge of downtown Macon, had known Knight since she moved to the city eight years ago.

She said he had been in the process of applying for an apartment in newly available permanent housing.

“I like to see everybody get off the streets, but I was so thrilled that Ken was gonna be one of those,” she said Monday. “He was a gentle soul.”

Sullivan said Knight kept to himself and that she had never known him to, as she put it, “get into a tiff” with anyone.

“He was very, very kind,” she said. “Just a very nice guy.”

She and others at the shelter have seen photographs of the suspect and they did not recognize him.

“It wasn’t done by the homeless community,” Sullivan said, “or the homeless community that visits Macon.”

The Macon Newsroom, a nonprofit local news outlet, interviewed Knight’s son, Albert Knight III, who said his father had “a yearslong drug addiction” and had for decades been living on the streets.

“My dad had a lot of vices,” the son said, “but he did not deserve what he got. I do hope they find the person who did it and he rots 6 feet below the jail. … Especially if what they’re saying is true, that he was asleep and it was unprovoked.”

An image of a man identified by investigators as a suspect in the May 24 beating death of a homeless man in downtown Macon. (Bibb County Sheriff's Office)

Credit: Bibb County Sheriff's Office

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Credit: Bibb County Sheriff's Office