On Thursday, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Alberto Milian rejected a “Stand Your Ground” defense claim made by Mark Bartlett, a white man who is accused of brandishing a loaded gun at Black teens and calling them racial slurs.
According to the Associated Press, Milian refused to dismiss the case and ruled that Bartlett did not act reasonably when he got out of his SUV to confront the group of teenagers during a protest in 2019.
Bartlett testified during the hearing that he was being held hostage as his SUV was stuck in traffic and that he was goaded into repeatedly using a slur. He acknowledged the slur is a derogatory term for a Black person but denied that it was racist.
Cellphone video taken by bystanders shows Bartlett carrying a handgun and yelling racial slurs at the teenagers on bicycles blocking traffic in downtown Miami.
The protest involved potential loss of affordable housing in the impoverished Liberty City neighborhood of Miami. It coincided with a much larger event, “Wheels Up, Guns Down,” that was timed to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day and involved mostly young African-American men riding motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles in traffic, popping wheelies and riding while standing on the seats.
Bartlett was caught in multiple videos berating a group of Black teen protesters at Miami’s Brickell Avenue Bridge.
According to CBS, Bartlett said while on the stand, “I pulled the gun out because they surrounded my fiancé. I didn’t pull the gun out because I was stuck in traffic.”
Bartlett’s fiancee, Dana Scalione got out of their SUV to confront the kids. She also took the stand to testify about their fear.
“I’m being bombarded, they are ganging up on me they’re coming from all around me. Then I just get pushed I turn around and I see Mark running so I was really thankful that he was there,” said Scalione.
“Well in any protest, if the defendant felt they were afraid for their safety or I felt that they were some crime being committed, they should’ve called the police. Whether it was on the Palmetto a couple weeks ago or earlier this year down in Biscayne you don’t get out of your vehicle and take a gun to a group of juveniles on bicycles,” said prosecutor Citra Joseph.
And the judge agreed saying there was enough evidence in this case to move forward and stand your ground did not apply.
Bartlett is charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm, all enhanced under Florida’s “hate crime” law, as well as carrying a concealed weapon and improper exhibition of a firearm, according to AP. The jury trial date has been set for Dec. 6.
Marwan Porter, the attorney for the children who were attacked by Bartlett, was happy with the judge’s ruling. “Basically, what the judge ruled was that we’re not going to allow people to incite violence, to victimize and villainize people and then to cry that they are the victims,” he said, according to CBS.