Two Florida men were arrested earlier this month after authorities said they confronted a pair of biracial young siblings as they walked home from a local convenience store by opening fire toward them and then yelling racial slurs.
Suspects James Reidnauer, 30, and Brent Van Besien, 33, are facing hate crime charges after allegedly firing at a 12-year-old girl and her 16-year-old brother on March 17 near the central Florida town of Leesburg, Orlando’s WFTV 9 reported. Then men confronted the youths on a trail owned by a nearby church.
Michelle Sabb, the children’s mother, said the kids had gone to a BP gas station to buy candy and were on their back way home.
“There is a path behind all of the homes on this road that all the children take to the bus stop,” Sabb explained. “The bus stop is in front of the church over here on Goose Prairie [Road], and that’s the route they take anywhere.”
According to an affidavit, Reidnauer and Van Besien questioned the children, whom the two men later claimed they thought were “meth heads,” before one of them fired a shot into the ground near where the kids were standing. The brother later told deputies that Van Besien called them a slur and fired a shotgun near them.
The siblings managed to escape unharmed and ran home to tell their mother, who then dialed 911.
“They were screaming, ‘They are shooting at us! They are shooting at us!'” Sabb recalled. “Thank God that they were able to get home, [because] there are a lot of kids [who don’t]. Trayvon [Martin] — he didn’t make it home. What if my son wouldn’t have made it home?”
Lake County deputies said the pair fired at least two shots — one in the air and another near the 12-year-old girl’s foot — before pelting the two children with racial slurs. Once deputies caught up with Reidnauer and Van Besien, the men said they shot at what they thought were two meth heads in their 20s or 30s trying to burglarize nearby homes.
Reidnauer admitted to firing a “warning shot,” the Orlando Sentinel reported, citing police records. Meanwhile, Van Besien denied having a shotgun. Both men denied using racial slurs.
Deputies arrested the pair on enhanced hate crime charges of aggravated assault with a firearm. Near the scene, authorities said they recovered one casing from a handgun but none from a shotgun.
Reidnauer and Van Besien remain booked at the Lake County Jail.
As noted by Raw Story, a 2017 Lake County booking photo of Van Besien depicts him with several tattoos, including one that appears to be an Iron Cross, a German military symbol that later became associated with Nazi Germany, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
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