A white supremacist who pulled a gun on a group of Black teens that were protesting housing inequality on Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been charged with hate crime, prosecutors said Tuesday.
In addition to the felony charge of carrying a concealed weapon, Mark Bartlett, 51, faces three counts of aggravated assault with prejudice and a single count of improperly exhibiting a firearm, a third-degree felony, Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a news release. His charges were enhanced because of a hate crime bill passed by Florida legislators, the Miami Herald reports. If convicted, the bill could mean a longer sentence.
Video shot by bystanders shows Bartlett swearing and hurling racial insults at the group of
Black cyclists, while keeping the gun at his side. Several videos from different perspectives were shot of the confrontation involving Bartlett. In one, an unidentified white woman is shown yelling at the cyclists to move because she has to go pick up her children, then screaming that one of them ran over her foot.
“You just touched me, you bunch of thugs,” she screamed.
A few minutes later, a man in a pink T-shirt, whom police identified as Bartlett, walks up to the scene with his handgun at his side, yelling obscenities and racial epithets at the black cyclists. Police later arrested Bartlett on the weapons charge as he was driving a few miles from the scene.
After the confrontation, Bartlett apologized for the offensive language he used, and maintained his innocence as he was simply “legally defending a loved one.”
On Tuesday, Bartlett’s attorney Jayne Weintraub slammed the new charge against his client, saying it “succumbed to the political pressure, rather than obeying the tenets of the law.”
“His statement is the truth. Mark went to protect Dana and extract her from the mob surrounding and taunting her,” Weintraub said. “It would not have mattered if these people were red, white or blue. This was not a hate crime.”
Civil rights attorney Marwan Porter of The Cochran Firm is representing at least four of the teens in a civil rights lawsuit against Bartlett, and called Weintraub’s claim that her client was protecting his girlfriend, “ridiculous.”
“Based on what is readily apparent by the video, Mr. Bartlett intended to intimidate these children by his words and with a weapon,” Porter said. “That type of conduct can not be tolerated.”
Bartlett is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday.