DECATUR — A man who was in the apartment at the time 20-year-old James “Nate” Johnson was shot to death told police he saw James J. Chatman running from the murder scene with a gun in his hand moments after hearing the fatal gunshots Sunday night.
This shooting, like many of the murders of young people in Decatur in recent years, was connected to drug transactions, police said.
“This murder, as the evidence is clearly revealing, revolved around the possession, usage and distribution of illegal narcotics,” Deputy Police Chief David Dickerson said. “It is a very sad situation that a young life has been taken and that Johnson’s family is now grieving his loss.”
Details of the murder of the young man came to light when the first-degree murder warrant requests were released Tuesday. The two warrants led to the arrests of Chatman and his brother, 43-year-old Anthony L. Chatman, on Monday.
“We have a very good understanding as to what happened at 1114 N. College St. during the commission of this crime and the reasoning provided for the shooting of James Johnson,” Dickerson said.
Two other arrests were made Tuesday in connection with the murder.
Maleea Kareotes, 44, James Chatman’s girlfriend; and Devante L. Hill, 18, James Chatman’s son, were arrested on charges of obstructing justice for allegedly providing false information to police after the murder.
James and Anthony Chatman have extensive criminal histories. James Chatman, who has served five prison terms for offenses including robbery, attempted robbery and obstructing justice, was most recently released from prison in May 2010.
They are being held in the Macon County Jail in connection with the slaying of Johnson, who was killed by a single shot while in an apartment in the Old King’s Orchard neighborhood. James Chatman is being held on $5 million bond; Anthony Chatman is being held without bond.
When officers arrived at the apartment on College Street, just north of Packard Street, in response to a shooting that occurred at 11:18 p.m. Sunday, they found Johnson in a rear bedroom.
“Johnson had suffered at least one gunshot wound and was pronounced deceased at the scene,” detective Adam Jahraus wrote in his warrant requests.
The witness was taken to police headquarters and was interviewed by the detective. He told police he was in a bedroom in the apartment when he heard a knock on the door.
When he got up to answer the door, there were two males there, “one of whom he knows by the nickname ‘Jimmy Jams.’ ” The male he knew as Jimmy strode into the apartment, while the other one, who he knew as Jimmy’s brother, stopped to talk with him.
“He had just begun speaking with Jimmy Jams’ brother when he heard three to five gunshots” inside the apartment, Jahraus wrote in his complaint.
The witness told police “he ran down his outside apartment stairs and moments later he observed Jimmy Jams and his brother run down the same stairs.”
He saw “ ‘Jimmy Jams’ carrying a black semiautomatic handgun as he ran down the apartment stairs.” The two brothers then ran south to Packard Street and turned west toward Monroe Street.
“Jimmy Jams” was positively identified by the witness as James J. Chatman.
Police obtained warrants from Associate Macon County Judge James Coryell early Monday. At 10:40 a.m., they announced the arrest of James Chatman by detectives and U.S. Marshals. About eight hours later, Anthony Chatman was arrested two miles from the murder scene in the 1700 block of North Woodford Street.
On Tuesday, detectives recovered additional evidence while searching the 800 block of South Jasper Street, according to a police news release.
Kareotes, a resident of that block, was arrested and given a notice to appear in court. Kareotes, who has been in a relationship with James Chatman for many years, was granted a two-year order of protection against him March 11, 1998, according to the circuit clerk’s website.
However, Kareotes provided $200 to bail James Chatman out of jail June 4, 1999, according to a court document. James and Anthony Chatman were charged with felony aggravated battery in that case, for brutally beating a 33-year-old man, who required 12 staples to close a wound in the top of his head. James Chatman later was convicted and received a sentence of conditional discharge.
Hill was arrested Tuesday and booked into the Macon County Jail on a charge of obstructing justice. Hill is due in circuit court this morning for his bond hearing.
In an unrelated case, Hill is due in court Thursday for a plea hearing for driving while suspended/DUI in 2012. He is on probation in another case after he was convicted in October of driving under the influence of narcotics.
The Chatman brothers are expected to be arraigned in circuit court within a week.