Judge rejects self-defense claim in MLK Day confrontation
MIAMI (AP) - A Florida judge on Thursday rejected a self-defense claim by a white man accused of pulling a gun and yelling racial slurs in a traffic confrontation with a group of Black teenagers protesting housing inequality on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2019.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Alberto Milian ruled following a two-day hearing that Mark Bartlett, 54, of Broward County, did not act reasonably in getting out of his SUV and pulling a pistol on the teenage protesters who had stopped traffic near the Brickell Bridge in downtown Miami, the Miami Herald reported.
Milian declined to dismiss the case, which is scheduled for a jury trial in December. Bartlett is charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm, enhanced under Florida’s “hate crime” law, plus carrying a concealed weapon and improper exhibition of a firearm.
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.
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