Eugene Patrick enters the courtroom for the first time Thursday to greet his defense attorney, Stephen Bernstein. He looked out into the gallery, where his three family members sat. (Anna Wilder/WUFT News)

Defendant in 2021 Swamp Car Wash murder case pleads guilty to manslaughter charge


The man accused of murdering 36-year-old Bobby Bernard Hopkins in May 2021 at a car wash in east Gainesville pleaded guilty on Thursday morning to a manslaughter charge.

Eugene Javon Patrick, 24, accepted a plea deal at the Alachua County Stephan P. Mickle Criminal Courthouse after getting permission from the judge to speak with his family before making the decision. Patrick went into the hearing requesting to change his original plea of not guilty on a second-degree murder charge.

A sentencing on the manslaughter charge is scheduled for later this month.

Deliberation between Patrick, Judge James M. Colaw, the prosecutor and Patrick’s defense attorney persisted as Patrick considered options about the sentence. He was told he could face a minimum of 25 years in prison if he was found guilty, compared to a maximum of 15 years if he took the plea deal.

Three of Patrick’s family members, including his godmother, were in the courtroom. Patrick looked back at them a few times during the hearing. After the discussion of his options and the potential outcomes, he was unsure of his decision.

He asked the judge if he could speak with his family.

Colaw granted Patrick the ability to use a downstairs room to talk in person with family members before coming back to the court.

The judge said the opportunity for Patrick to speak with his family in person before making the decision was uncommon.

“I’m trying to do the best I can for you,” Judge Colaw told Patrick.

More than a week after Hopkins was fatally shot in the chest at the Swamp Car Wash, 912 E. University Ave., Patrick turned himself into the Alachua County Jail, according to Gainesville Police Department records.

His mother called detectives and told them Patrick would be turning himself in but was scared for his life, according to police records. She also requested extra patrol around her home due to “word on the street” that people were going to shoot up her house.

According to GPD records, Patrick had gotten into a physical altercation with Hopkins at the car wash shortly after noon on the day of the murder. During the altercation, Hopkins lunged at Patrick before Patrick shot him in the chest. One of the witnesses stated they heard someone say “where is my money,” just before the shooting occurred.

During the hearing, the defendant’s attorney — Stephen Bernstein — said he filed a motion to assert a defense under the state’s “stand your ground” law, but it had not been heard.

Bernstein asked Colaw to give Patrick more time to consider his options during the hearing. He said the prosecution had not offered the plea deal until Sunday, and Patrick did not have information about it until Tuesday. The judge denied the request.

“I know this is a big decision, and it’s an important decision,” Colaw said, “…but it is one you have to make today.”

Patrick has already served 682 days in prison, which will be calculated into his sentencing time.

Patrick’s family had no comment. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 25, and the victim’s family will be able to give a statement.

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