MIAMI (CBSMiami) – There were lots of frustrated drivers on Brickell Avenue on Martin Luther King Jr. day as teens protesting housing concerns in Liberty City rode bikes in the busy financial district, bringing traffic to a halt leading to tempers flaring.
On the Brickell Avenue Bridge, those teens riders got into a confrontation with an angry driver. Part of that exchange was recorded on a cell phone camera.
“You just ran over my foot with your tire,” the woman screamed.
It didn’t take long before things escalated.
Police say Mark Bartlett walked up carrying a gun. On the video we hear a lot of racial slurs directed at the teens.
“We believe that this crime was a hate based crime that their motivation for targeting these young people was race based,” said Lee Merritt, an attorney who’s representing the teens. Those kids plan to file a civil lawsuit.
“The really egregious thing that happened was a grown man pulled a gun on teen aged kids. That in itself, minus the speech is criminal,” Merritt said. “Now that speech gives us the indication that those actions, those wrongful actions, may have been motivated by racial animus.”
The kids did not want to speak to the media but their attorney says this has left them shaken and scared, that’s part for emotional distress claim.
“They’ll tell you they were scared, they were terrified, they were nervous, they didn’t know what to do,” said attorney Marwan Porter. “They’re still feeling some of that. They thought their lives were over.”
Bartlett’s attorney released a statement saying: “Mark Bartlett sincerely regrets and apologizes for the offensive language he used on the Martin Luther King Holiday. That language is inexcusable. Mark is not a racist and his true character is not defined by the use of this offensive language on that day. Mark emphatically maintains his innocence. He is not guilty of any criminal conduct as he was legally defending a loved one that he believed was in danger. Mark strongly believes in our justice system and in the process.”
All this comes on a day when the kids are being interviewed by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office. They’re checking to see if this should be prosecuted as a hate crime.
So far Bartlett is charged with carrying a concealed weapon. No word yet if there will be more charges.
“I’m not in a position to answer that as whether he was undercharged or overcharged,” said Assistant Miami-Dade State Attorney Don Horn. “We are in the process of conducting our investigation we are 3 days away from this even occurring.”