A 58-year-old Florida man accused of hurling racial slurs at three Black teenagers and also damaging their car is facing hate crime charges in connection with the confrontation, Volusia Sheriff’s Office announced.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the January 22 incident occurred outside a gas station in Osteen. And the suspect, identified, as Richard Burnham, allegedly confronted and attacked the three Black teens unprovoked.
Burnham’s arrest report disclosed he was taken into custody on a $40,000 bond last Wednesday. His charges include criminal mischief causing damage of $1,000 or more and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill. Officials, however, said the charges brought against him will be enhanced as a hate crime. The state’s hate crime law stipulates authorities can bring such charges against suspects if their actions were driven by prejudice as a result of race, color or ethnicity, and other similar factors, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
The Black teens Burnham attacked are high school students, and their ages range between 17 and 18. The victims told deputies Burnham confronted and hurled racial slurs at them while they were in their 2022 Toyota Camry vehicle.
The teens informed Burnham to “go away”, but he entered the convenience store and bought a can of beer before heading to his vehicle and taking out a metal pipe, the report stated. The accused White man then used the pipe to hit the passenger side of the vehicle the teens were in. The impact of the strike shattered the car’s window.
And though the Black teens drove away in an attempt to steer clear of any further attacks, Burnham pursued them in his car for two miles before ultimately leaving them alone.
“He tried to follow us… when he hit us, we tried to, like, pull out the way so he couldn’t hit us again and my friend got out the car and said like, ‘What are you doing?’ and then he tried to come back and hit us and we left because we were scared,” one of the Black teens said during a 911 call, WKMG reported.
A Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said Burnham admitted he was at the scene of the incident during questioning with investigators on Wednesday. But he claimed the teens rather threatened him and also shot him with an airsoft gun. Burnham however did not report the incident to the police or the attendant at the store, an official stated, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Besides that, investigators also found inconsistencies in his account of what actually transpired. Deputies who also arrived at the scene did not find the teenagers in possession of an airsoft gun.
The White suspect was released later on Wednesday after posting the aforementioned bond.