Florida men accused of shooting and yelling slurs at two biracial siblings admitted to deputies that they fired a “warning shot” — but said they thought they had caught “meth heads” trying to burglarize a home, according to an arrest report.
Deputies arrested James Robert Reidnauer, 30, and Brent Van Besien, 33, on hate crime charges of aggravated battery with a firearm following the March 17 incident near Leesburg, which involved a 12-year-old girl and her 16-year-old brother, the arrest report said.
The kids said they had been taking a shortcut home from a convenience store when the men confronted them and asked what they were doing, according to the report.
“There is a path behind all of the homes on this road that all the children take to the bus stop,” said the children’s mother, Michelle Sabb, WFTV reports. She added that “that’s the route they take anywhere.”
The teen boy said he told the men he and his sister were just walking home, and then Reidnauer used a handgun to shoot into the ground near the children, the arrest report said.
“What are you doing?” the boy said he asked the men, at which point he said Van Besien used another slur and fired at them with a shotgun, according to the report.
After that, the children hurried home — uninjured but “visibly frightened,” the report said.
The boy’s sister gave an “identical account of the incident” to deputies, according to the report.
“They were screaming, ‘They’re shooting at us. They’re shooting at us,’” Sabb said, according to the TV station. “Thank God that they were able to get home, (because) there are a lot of kids (who don’t). Trayvon (Martin) — he didn’t make it home. What if my son wouldn’t have made it home?”
Martin, a 17-year-old black high school student, was walking through Sanford, Florida, unarmed in 2012 when he was shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman who had reported Martin to 911 as a “suspicious person,” and then said he fired at Martin in self-defense.
Deputies in this month’s case said they found a casing from a handgun but none from a shotgun.
The men, who were booked at the Lake County Jail, each denied using racial slurs, deputies said.
Reidnauer told deputies he had seen “two meth heads walking through the area and he stopped them to see what they were doing because they were near a residence,” the report said. He added that “because they were acting suspiciously he fired a warning shot at them,” describing the people he encountered as a “brown guy” and a “white girl” in their 20s or 30s.
Van Besien also said the pair had confronted “meth heads,” trying to stop them from breaking into a home, according to the report.
Deputies said Van Besien described the individuals as a black or brown man and a white woman, too, but at one point “changed his story” and said he “never actually got a good look at the people” because he was further from them than Reidnauer was.
The children’s mother called the police once her kids returned home, according to the report.