Teens plan to sue couple who got into heated exchange with them during protest
Teens call for more charges to be brought against man who called them 'n------'
MIAMI – The teens involved in a heated confrontation Monday with a couple in Brickell have retained civil rights attorneys and plan to file a lawsuit against the couple.
The group met Thursday morning with their attorneys and Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, a representative from the Dream Defenders Action organization said.
The group held a news conference later in the day, announcing the intention to file a lawsuit against Dana Scalione and her boyfriend, Mark Bartlett, and calling for hate crime charges to be brought against Bartlett.
"We believe that this crime was a hate-based crime, that their motivation for targeting these young people was race-based," attorney S. Lee Merritt said. "We believe, at this point, that Mr. Bartlett and Ms. Dana Scalione have been undercharged or not charged at all."
Deputy Chief State Attorney Don Horn said he is not in a position to say whether Bartlett is undercharged at this time
"We are in the process of conducting our investigation and we are three days away from this event occurring," he said.
Cellphone video of Monday's incident shows Scalione yelling at a group of teens who were blocking her car from passing the Brickell Avenue Bridge as they were protesting the redevelopment of the Liberty Square public housing complex.
The video shows Scalione yelling that one of the teens ran over her foot with his bike, and a screaming match ensues.
"Don't touch me, you bunch of thugs," the woman tells the teens as she walks away from them, the video shows.
The teens then shout obscenities at her.
Moments later, Bartlett, 51, approaches the teens, holding a gun in his hand. He begins yelling obscenities and racial slurs at the teens, telling them to leave.
"F---ing stupid n-----s," Bartlett can be heard saying in the video.
Bartlett was arrested shortly after the incident on a felony charge of carrying a concealed firearm.
Police said Bartlett didn't have a concealed carry permit for the gun, which was loaded and resting on the front passenger seat.
Scalione is not facing charges and told Local 10 News reporter Madeleine Wright that racial slurs were thrown around from both sides.
"I was called a white a-- first. Nobody calls them racist," Scalione said. "I was called a b----. Nobody says they hate women."
Scalione said she doesn't believe the teens or her boyfriend are racist and said the incident was situational.
Bartlett told Wright that he stands behind his actions, but regrets not having a concealed carry permit.
"All I see is 15 people running across the street toward my girlfriend -- over the median, toward my girlfriend," he said. "My first reaction is I have a gun on me. Whether I have a gun on me or not, I'm running to see and to protect my family. I had a gun though. It wasn't loaded. I ran out there. You can see I never pointed it. I never threatened anybody. I just needed it in case something were to happen."
Bartlett's attorneys released a statement Thursday, saying their client regrets the language he used toward the teens but maintains his innocense against the charge against him.
"Mark Bartlett sincerely regrets and apologizes for the offensive language he used on the Martin Luther King Holiday," attorneys Sidney Z. Fleischman and Walter A. Reynoso. "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."
The teens involved in the incident, however, told reporters at a previous news conference this week that they want more charges filed against Bartlett.
"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, founder of Bikes Up Guns Down, said Bartlett should face hate crime and assault charges.
He said the teens had a right to protest and wanted to bring awareness to the crisis in affordable housing in the area and their fear of being pushed out of the community by the Liberty Square Rising project.
"There are several kids inside of the Liberty Square projects, along with their parents, being displaced via (Miami-Dade County) Mayor Carlos Gimeenz," Wells said.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey Edmonson said Wells statements about the Liberty Square residents are not true.
"They did move the people into other Liberty Square units while they build the ones they're currently building, and those people will move right back into the brand-new buildings," she said.
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