MIAMI – A group of Liberty City teenagers urged prosecutors Tuesday to file more charges against a man who threatened them with a gun and used racial slurs during a tense encounter that was caught on camera.
The teenagers were protesting the redevelopment of the Liberty Square public housing complex by blocking traffic Monday afternoon near the Brickell Avenue Bridge. A woman, later identified as Dana Scalione, got out her car and urged the teens to move, but the encounter quickly grew heated.
Scalione accused the teens, who were on bicycles, of running over her foot. Scalione got into a shouting match with the teens and both Scalione and teens traded insults and obscenities, but she eventually walked away. Scalione's boyfriend, Mark Bartlett, then approached the teens holding a handgun.
He began yelling obscenities and racial slurs at the teens, telling them to leave.
"F---ing stupid n-----s," Bartlett can be heard saying in a video posted to social media.
On Tuesday, one of the teens involved in the exchange said Bartlett had threatened him before the video was recorded.
"He pointed the gun at me first inside his car. He told me to come to the car. I said, 'No, sir. No, sir. I'm not coming,'" Deante Joseph, 18, said. "He said, 'Black n----r. You black n----r. Get away from my car. Get away from my car.' We were holding up signs for housing. That's all we were doing."
Joseph also said Bartlett tried to run him over with his car.
Dwight Wells of Dream Defenders Action, the group that sponsored the protest, said Bartlett should face hate crime and assault charges. After the incident, Barlett was arrested on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.
"These kids blatantly (were) racially profiled," Wells said. "A driver was irritated because they were fighting for fair housing."
Wells added that Scalione should be charged as well. He said the teens shouted at Scalione and insulted her because they were provoked.
The teens, who range in age from 11 to 18 years old, have hired civil rights attorney Lee Merritt to represent them. Angel Settle, a liaison for Merritt, said the law firm wants to make sure hate crime charges are filed and the teens' well-being is looked after.
"Several of the children have not slept since this incident," she said. "They are very disturbed with this incident, and ultimately it's very clear that this was racially charged, racially motivated."
Barlett told Local 10 News reporter Madeleine Wright that he's not racist and only used the racial slur out of anger. He said he pulled the gun because he feared for Scalione's safety.
Capt. Keandra Simmons with the Miami Police Department said Bartlett's initial charge was based on what officers knew at the time. If victims give statements to police, the department is open to more charges, she said.
"We are more than willing to file any charges necessary if we feel as though there was an actual, in fact, hate crime," Simmons said.