Wade Twiner and his son Lane told law enforcement they were tired of joyriders rambling four-wheelers along the dirt road near their property in rural Mississippi. So they took matters into their hands last September when two Black teens rode their ATVs on the road.
The teens said they weren’t trespassing on private land. But Wade and Lane Twiner chased the boys in their pickup truck, fired several gunshots at them, and attempted to force them off the road. The father-son duo even rammed their pickup into the back of one teen’s ATV.
The Twiners were arrested and charged with three counts of aggravated assault last year stemming from the incident. Authorities didn’t buy their explanation that they confronted the teens simply to preserve a rarely enforced state law that makes it illegal to operate ATVs on public roads.
Investigators believed duo’s attack was racially motivated. And a state grand jury agreed earlier this month. Wade and Lane Twiner were formally indicted March 8 on the aggravated assault charges for which they were arrested last year. And the grand jury added new indictments for malicious mischief, conspiracy to commit a crime and discriminatory enhancement to the white men’s slate of charges.
The Twiners are scheduled to appear before Circuit Court Judge Jannie Lewis-Blackmon for an arraignment April 9, but it’s not clear if they’ve been taken back into custody yet. Warrants have been issued for their arrests. They were not listed as inmates at the Yazoo County Correctional Facility this week.
The Twiners already faced up to 20 years apiece for each of the aggravated assault charges if convicted, according to state statutes. Those sentences could be doubled now that prosecutors have successfully tacked on the hate crime enhancement.
Mississippi law reserves the discriminatory enhancement for aggravated assaults committed by anyone who targets another person because of their perceived race, ethnicity, religion, gender or national origin.
According to WDAM, Yazoo County Sheriff Jacob Sheriff said the Twiners stalked the Black teens and “tried to stop them and to shoot them and bump them.” No one was injured. But authorities compared the incident to the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by a white father-son duo in February 2020 after he was spotted jogging through their Brunswick, Georgia, neighborhood.
“Not only did they shoot at him, they also ran into the back of his four-wheeler, and that could also have been murder right then and there,” one of the teens’ mothers told television station WLBT just days after the alleged assault.
The ordeal occurred the evening of Sept. 27 near the Twiner family’s property along Judkins Road in unincorporated Yazoo County.
One of the men told deputies they owned land on both sides of the dirt path and they’d grown tired of ATV riders using it for recreation.
It’s against Mississippi law for ATVs to ride on public roads, but the law is not strictly enforced, The Associated Press reports. Local news outlets reported that the winding back road in the rural pines of central Mississippi is a favorite often used by joyriders on horses, dune buggies and ATVs.
In fact, several other people rode their ATVs on the stretch of road the same day, and the Twiners never confronted them, Yazoo County Chief Deputy Joseph Head indicated. Deputies said when the father and son initiated their attack on the Black teens they were the only ones on the road.
One of the teens described a gunman hanging out the driver’s side aiming at him while the other fired gunshots across the roof of the pickup from the passenger’s side. Investigators recovered a 9mm handgun involved in the incident the night of the shooting. They never recovered another firearm believed to have been used by the Twiners.
Investigators reviewed the Twiners’ social media activity and took note of a meme one of them shared on Facebook last July. Deputies said the meme proclaimed “Redneck Neighborhood Watch” and included the words “You Loot We Shoot.” It was accompanied by a photo of a Confederate flag, according to the NY Post.