A white man from DeLand, Florida has been released from the Volusia County Jail after being arrested on charges of physically and verbally assaulting two Black high school students and their friend. Accused of stalking the students for two miles, smashing their windows, and hurling racial slurs at the minors, he is out on a $40,000 bond.
MSN reports Richard Burnham was charged with three counts of aggravated assault and one count of criminal mischief in an incident that authorities say began with Burnham harassing three students after spotting them pumping gas.
The 58-year-old man approached the Volusia County gas station and started to bombard the 17- and 18-year-olds with racial epithets, which bumped the charges up to a hate crime.
On a call to 911, one of the teens said, “He was just kind of saying something to us and my friend who was driving. It’s his car, he told him like get away from the car, back up.”
Reports state that after tossing the N-word and some other racial slurs in their direction, he went into the attached convenience store of the Circle K on State Road 415 in Osteen, Florida, around 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22.
After returning from the store, the teenagers reported that the situation escalated. Burnham had retrieved a metal pipe from his Dodge Ram truck and rushed toward the vehicle.
“Somebody hit our window with a pole, we don’t know what type,” the victim said to the 911 dispatcher. “We don’t know what type of weapon it is but it was heavy and it shattered our window.”
“He hit us,” the caller continued. “[And] we kind of like pulled. We tried to like pull out of the way so he couldn’t hit us again and my friend got out of the car to, like, say what are you doing and he tried to come back and hit us, so we left because we were scared.”
The three drove away from Burnham, hoping to distance themselves from the attacker. Still, he followed them for two miles with his truck and trailer that towed two four-wheelers, on S.R. 415 before retreating, a report from My News 13 says.
Law enforcement that investigated the scene observed the window was shattered on the passenger side of the 2022 Toyota Camry and the vehicle’s panels had several dents.
Deputies arrested Burnham on Wednesday, Jan. 26, on charges of criminal mischief causing damage of $1,000 or more and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill, counts that have been enhanced under Florida’s hate crime law, which reclassifies crimes motivated by prejudice based on race, color, or ethnicity.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said on Jan. 22, that the enhancement was made because the man committed “an unprovoked, racially prejudiced attack on a car occupied by three high school students at a gas station in the Osteen area.”
However, Burnham disputes that. His very different story claims the three high schoolers assaulted him. He says he was acting in retaliation to the young people shooting at him with an airsoft gun and threatening to kill him. The officers also noted that, unlike the teens, the elder white man did not call 911 nor did his story line up like the teens’ recollection of the event.
More discrepancies were identified by the police on the scene, including the fact that no firearms were found on the young people.
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