The case of a Miami man seen on video yelling racial slurs after pulling a gun on a group of Black teenage protesters is now being investigated as a hate crime, Miami’s top prosecutor announced on Tuesday.
“I’m outraged at the reported acts depicted in the videos taken during this incident,” Miami Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Ruddle said in a statement. “I have assigned my chief of our Hate Crimes Unit to immediately investigate and handle this case. My office is working closely with City of Miami Police on this matter.”
“I am committed to filing the appropriate charges and to vigorously prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law,” she added.
Mark Bartlett, 51, was arrested and charged Monday with carrying a concealed weapon after brandishing a pistol and cursing several young men who were participating in the annual “Wheels Up, Guns Down” event in the city’s Brickell neighborhood. Video of the shocking encounter was posted to social media and quickly went viral.
As reported by the Miami Herald, Bartlett could face upgraded charges, like aggravated assault, that include a “hate crime” enhancement that would stiffen his sentence if convicted.
Video posted to the Instagram account of local grassroots group the Dream Defenders shows several members of the activist group being accosted by Bartlett. The young men, who were on their bikes, were at Monday’s event protesting the housing crisis in Miami’s Liberty Square community, which is being redeveloped for a new project.
Their protest was an offshoot of the “Wheels Up, Guns Down” event, which is held every year on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, according to the newspaper.
The clip begins with a woman, who’s been identified at Bartlett’s girlfriend, yelling at the youths, accusing one of them of rolling over her foot with his bike. An intense shouting match soon follows.
“Don’t you touch me, you bunch of thugs,” the girlfriend yells as she storms away from the group. The teens continue to yell obscenities back at her.
Moments later, Barlett runs up on the group, pistol in hand.
“Get out of here you piece of s–t,” he shouts at one of the teens, before twice hurling racial slurs and cursing at the youths. “Get the f–k outta here … f–king stupid n—–s! F–king dumb ass n—–s.”
A separate video taken prior to the incident showed Bartlett harassing another Black protester and using a racial slur, yet again.
According to a police report, Bartlett hopped back into his blue Range Rover and drove off. However, he was stopped by police just after 6:30 p.m. after an officer spotted him driving on Biscayne Boulevard and 13th Street. Authorities say the Hollywood, Fla., man did not have a concealed carry permit for the gun, which was resting in the front passenger’s seat of his car.
He was arrested and booked into the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, Local 10 News reported.
While detained, Bartlett reportedly asked police, “Why am I being arrested when those kids are free to ride around? I did pull out my gun, but I never pointed it at them.”
The Florida man recently spoke with Local 10 News about the incident and insisted he isn’t a racist. He then tried justifying his use of the n-word, which he claimed he only used out of anger.
“The reason why we use that word, the reason why Chinese people use the word, why Japanese people, European people, the reason why everybody uses that word is because Black people use that word,” he told reporter Madeleine Wright in a telephone interview. “We all knew the word for Puerto Ricans as spic. We all knew Asian people as gooks or whatever. [But] Nobody uses those words anymore. Why? Because Puerto Ricans don’t say that to each other.”
“The only ones that continue to say it are Black people,” Bartlett continued. “So what’s the first thing in my head or most people’s heads? Unfortunately, it’s the n-word.”
Bartlett also said the only reason he pulled out his gun is because girlfriend, Dana Scalione, was outnumbered by the youths and he feared for her safety.
“I’m running to see and to protect my family,” he told the station. “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.”
Scalione claimed slurs were hurled from both sides, and wondered why the teens weren’t dubbed racists after calling her a “white a–” and a “b—h. Her boyfriend told Local 10 News he stands by his actions and doesn’t regret how the incident went down.
Watch more in the clip below.