We almost saw a tragedy when alt-right and neo-Nazi guru Richard Spencer brought his hate to Gainesville, Florida on Thursday. No, it didn’t involve the swastika-wearing Spencer supporter getting decked. Three of Spencer’s most ardent supporters are in jail after one of them got the bright idea to shoot at a group of protesters.
Sometime around 5:20 p.m., William Fears, his younger brother Colton, and their friend Tyler Tenbrink were driving down the street in their silver Jeep following Spencer’s speech at the University of Florida when they ran into a crowd of protesters. The Fears brothers and Tenbrink, who had driven from the Houston area to watch Spencer, started yelling “Heil Hitler!” and raising their hands in the Nazi salute. One of the protesters responded by hitting the Jeep’s rear window with a baton.
The Fears brothers and Tenbrink drove off, but abruptly stopped, and Tenbrink got out of the Jeep holding a gun. The Fears brothers yelled at the protesters, “I’m going to f**king kill you” and “Shoot them!” Tenbrink obliged, firing a single shot that missed the crowd and hit a building behind the crowd. They then drove off–but not before one of the protesters took down the Jeep’s license plate.
Dan Baker, a U. S. Army veteran who was on hand to protest Spencer’s speech, told The Gainesville Sun that when he heard the telltale sound of a gunshot, he turned to see four people running behind a dumpster with their hands up. He said he was “furious” at what happened, and feared that things were getting to the point that “the only answer is violence.”
According to the Gainesville Police Department, area federal, state, and local law enforcement officials were still in “Unified Command” mode, allowing them to quickly identify the vehicle. An off-duty Alachua County sheriff’s deputy spotted the Jeep sometime around 9 p. m. With the help of Florida state troopers and officers from nearby Alachua and High Springs, sheriff’s deputies found the Jeep driving on Interstate 75 and took the three white supremacists into custody.
All three were charged with attempted homicide. After a records check revealed that Tenbrink had a felony conviction on his record, he was slapped with an additional charge of possession of a weapon by a felon. The three of them are currently in the Alachua County Jail; the Fears brothers are being held on $1 million bond, while Tenbrink is being held on $3 million bond.
Ironically, both Tenbrink and William Fears were interviewed by The Sun during the rally. Watch Tenbrink here.
Tenbrink said–with a straight face–that he wasn’t a Nazi. Even if he isn’t one, the fact that he got out with a gun still proves he’s a thug.
Watch Fears here.
Fears said that he “wasn’t surprised” that James Fields plowed his car into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, since there were “a bunch of Communist flags” in the street. As he saw it, the protesters “threw the first blow,” so Fields was merely acting in self-defense. That would be believable if Fields hadn’t slowed down first, then sped up dramatically. He knew what he was doing.
The Fears brothers could both face up to 30 years in prison, while Tenebrink faces up to 45 years. Hopefully prosecutors will seek a prison term close to the maximum, even if they don’t find that there was a racial factor at play. Firing a gun into a crowd of people, provoked or not, is unacceptable. Period.
(featured image courtesy Gainesville Police Department via Slate)