A South Florida man’s attorneys argued in court on Monday, Aug. 23, that he was acting in self-defense when he threatened a group of teenage Black Lives Matter protesters with a gun. On Thursday, Aug. 25, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Alberto Milian rejected that plea and refused to dismiss the case.
During a 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Day protest, then 51-year-old Mark Bartlett was caught on cell phone video pointing a gun at teenage protesters who had stopped traffic in Brickell, Florida, with their bikes for the “Bikes Up, Guns Down” protest. Bartlett also called the teens the N-word during the encounter.
One of the teens took the stand in court Monday and said he was “scared” when he saw that Bartlett had a gun.
On Jan. 21, 2019, the teens were also protesting against the proposed Liberty Square Rising project and advocating to save the community where a historically Black housing project had opened in 1937. The street was being blocked by protesters as a form of civil disobedience.
Dana Scalione, Bartlett’s fiancé and a passenger in his vehicle, got out and confronted the teens aggressively.
“You are going to end up in jail,” she said. “Please, move your bike. I have kids I need to pick up! You guys are blocking me.” She also added, “This is not saving your cause.”
Scalione accused one boy of running over her foot with his bike, then pushed him and called him a thug as she and several boys in the group continued to yell at one another.
Bartlett then jumped out of the car with a loaded gun and threatened the boys. “Get the f–k out of here you f—–ing piece of sh-t!” Bartlett said. “Stupid n—-ers.”
Bartlett was originally charged only with carrying a concealed firearm after he and Scalione were pulled over after driving away from the scene. But following a review of video evidence and witness statements, he was charged with 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.
On Monday, Bartlett’s attorney attempted to characterize his actions as self-defense.
“They were banging on the hoods of the car. They are scaring people. They have masks on. They are scaring people,” Attorney Bruce H. Lehr said.
Judge Milian, however found that Bartlett did not reasonably when he made the decision to exit his SUV and confront the protesters.
The attorney previously filed a motion for statutory immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action earlier this year on the basis that Bartlett’s use of force was justified. Bartlett has pleaded not guilty and claims he feared for the safety of his fiancée.
Although profanity was exchanged, the footage shows that the teens didn’t react with violence or wield any weapons. A jury trial is scheduled for December.