(MIAMI) — A Florida man has been charged with a hate crime after allegedly yelling racial slurs and waving a gun at a group of black protesters.
Mark Bartlett, who is white, originally was charged only with carrying a concealed firearm after he allegedly pulled a gun on protesters blocking a Miami street as part of a demonstration on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But prosecutors announced additional charges on Tuesday, citing the completion of final interviews and witness statements.
Bartlett, 51, now faces three counts of aggravated assault with prejudice, enhanced to a second-degree felony; one count of improper exhibition of a firearm, enhanced to a third-degree felony; and one count of carrying a concealed firearm, a third-degree felony, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement on Tuesday.
He’s scheduled to be arraigned on the new charges Wednesday.
Video circulated on social media last month showed Bartlett wielding a handgun and yelling the N-word repeatedly.
“Get in front of my car, you f—ing piece of s—. N—— suck,” the man yelled from the window of his black SUV. He continued to swear and yell racial slurs as he exited his vehicle, brandishing his gun and scattering protesters.
One of the teens involved in the incident said Bartlett threatened him before the video was filmed.
“He pointed the gun at me first [from] inside his car. He told me to come to the car. I said, ‘No, sir. No, sir. I’m not coming,'” 18-year-old Deante Joseph told ABC affiliate WPLG-TV last month. “He said, ‘Black n—-r. You black n—-r. Get away from my car. Get away from my car.’ We were holding up signs for housing. That’s all we were doing.”
Bartlett later told police that he had a gun at the time, but said he only pulled it out to protect his girlfriend, who was arguing with one of the teens.
“All I see is 15 people running across the street toward my girlfriend — over the median, toward my girlfriend,” he told WPLG. “My first reaction is, I have a gun on me. Whether I have a gun on me or not, I’m running to see and to protect my family. I had a gun though. It wasn’t loaded. I ran out there. You can see I never pointed it. I never threatened anybody. I just needed it in case something were to happen.”
Five of the protesters have since filed a lawsuit against Bartlett and his girlfriend, whom he said he was defending at the time, seeking damages for pain and suffering.
Bartlett’s attorneys, Jayne Weintraub and Jonathan Etra, said the new charges were the result of political pressure, according to told WPLG.
“We are disappointed the State Attorney has succumbed to the political pressure rather than obeying the tenets of the law,” the pair said in a statement. “Clearly this mob of people who were commandeering traffic, and taunting passengers, while wearing masks and gloves, were not peacefully protesting — they were not peacefully doing anything. They were committing multiple crimes for which the State Attorney is not holding them accountable.”
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