Suspect Demetrius Harris Jr involved in deadly brawl has long history with Richmond County court system
Demetrius Lamont Harris Jr

Nine suspected sit behind bars in Richmond County after being accused in the murder of an 18-year-old. But one of them, Demetrius Harris, Jr., is getting a lot of attention across the country after one photo popped up on social media.

Deputies believe the knife he is holding may be the same knife that killed Demahjay Bell. 12 On Your Side did some digging and found Harris has been arrested a total of five times in just three years.

It's been one week since a cell phone captured this big brawl in Hephzibah that took the life of 18-year-old Demajhay Bell.

But new details have emerged about 21-year-old Demetrius Harris, Jr., the man accused of stabbing Bell in the neck with a knife. Court records show it's not his first run-in with Richmond County deputies.

Neighbors tell News 12 that Harris, Jr. and Bell were friends and spend a lot of time together, which adds more questions as to why this happened.

Harris has been arrested five times since he was 17, according to documents obtained by News 12. His first arrest happened after a Richmond County deputy spotted Harris with a gun sticking out of a jacket pocket. He's also been locked up on multiple occasions for bench warrants.

Reverend Devon Harris, the Executive Director of Full Circle Refuge in Evans, says he sees teens like Demetrius Harris every day. He also says scenes like the brawl on Chaps Lane have become too common in our area.

"First thing I say then is 'not again'," Reverend Harris says. "And seeing a loss of life, that even escalates it more."

News 12 spoke with Reverend Harris in 2013 when Georgia lawmakers overhauled the Juvenile Justice Department. He says those changes have helped keep at-risk youth out of prison.

As for teens already locked up, he says those same changes have given him and his volunteers more access to teens while they're behind bars. Reverend Harris says that's where he'll offer those teens help once they're released.

But, according to Reverend Harris, the work to keep those kids off the street and out of prison starts in the home. He says that strong family presence is needed since kids will always oney: either with their actual family or with a gang.

"You can't arrest yourself out of this," Reverend Harris says, "you can't lock them up. You really can't do that unless a heart and a mind and change what they're doing with their hands. And then you'll see change."

 
 
 
 
By Jamie Rivera 03/26/2016 10:53:00