3 charged in shooting after white nationalist’s Florida speech

October 21, 2017 - 12:37 PM
Tyler Tenbrink, Colton Fears and William Fears. (Gainesville Police Department/Handout via Reuters)

A Texas man who shot at protesters after a white nationalist’s speech at the University of Florida and two brothers who urged him to “kill them” have been charged with attempted homicide, police said on Friday.

No one was injured in the shooting incident, which occurred Thursday near the campus in Gainesville where hundreds of people protested Richard Spencer’s speech amid a heavy police presence and a preemptive state of emergency declaration by the governor.

Gainesville police said Tyler Tenbrink, 28, and William and Colton Fears, 30 and 28, respectively, stopped their car near the campus to argue with a group of protesters.

After threatening the protesters and making Nazi salutes, Tenbrink fired a single shot at them as the Fears brothers yelled “kill them” and “shoot them,” police said.

The shot hit a nearby building, and the suspects fled in their car, police said. One of the protesters reported the car’s license plate number to police, and the trio were arrested a few hours later.

At least two of the men are linked to “extremist groups,” police said, without specifying which two. The Fears brothers were each being held under a $1 million bond.

Tenbrink, who faces additional charges of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, was being held under a $3 million bond, police said.

The incident came about two months after rallies by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to violent clashes with counter-protesters. A woman was killed there on Aug. 12 when a man who is said by law enforcement to have harbored Nazi sympathies drove his car into a crowd.

The protests in Gainesville were mostly peaceful. There were a few scuffles on campus that left five people with minor injuries, the university said in a statement.

Reuters journalists spoke with Tenbrink and Colton Fears ahead of the Spencer speech on Thursday. Tenbrink described himself as a white nationalist and said he was interested in “preserving our heritage and the American way of life.”

Colton Fears said he wore a skull-and-crossbones Nazi pin on his shirt to provoke people at the event.