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Flamethrower joins list of odd weapons used in Alachua County crimes this year

Alachua Courthouse, Courthouse
Alachua County Courthouse, Downtown Gainesville, FL

A Gainesville man fed up with his neighbors’ parking habits decided to take matters into his own hands — by firing a flamethrower at a car with teenagers inside, according to a Gainesville police report.

Andre Abrams, 57, now faces a felony aggravated assault charge for the Nov. 30 incident. It’s the latest in a series of crimes in Alachua County involving residents wielding unorthodox weapons of opportunity, including a walker, frying pan, medical urinal and a scooter. At least six cases this year have involved machetes.

When reached by phone, Abrams said he could not comment further without an attorney for fear of being evicted. He did say, however, there was more to the story.

“This family, how could I say this — the worst thing that could ever happen to a neighborhood,” Abrams said. “They’ve had issues with other residents, and it needs to be brought to light.”

According to a GPD report, Abrams told officers he had gotten increasingly frustrated with his neighbors over a series of parking disputes that afternoon. That frustration led Abrams to do what he deemed necessary: bringing out his XM42 Lite Flamethrower, one that emits flames up to 20 feet long, to the car as they sat inside.

Flamethrowers, famous for their film appearances, have had a semi-resurgence recently due to tech entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Boring Company flamethrower. Musk sold 20,000 units of his “Not a Flamethrower” in 2018 at $500, though those devices only emitted flames up to 10 feet long. Abrams’ XM42 flamethrower retails around $550.

Amari Singleton, the car’s driver, told police she and her two passengers saw Abrams approach them with the flamethrower and begin spraying. 

“You better not burn up my car,” Singleton said, according to the report. Fearful for their lives, the three then scurried out of the car through the passenger’s side door and ran, with Abrams continuing to spray his flames toward them.

Ashley Gainey, the mother of 16-year-old passenger Nate’talya Baker, said the incident was the culmination of multiple heated disputes between her family and Abrams. She said Abrams frequently sprayed his flamethrower to scare off guests at her home, incidents she said she’s reported to the Gainesville Housing Authority.

“​​When he shoots it, it lights the whole road up,” she said. “It’s like it’s daylight outside. He’ll do it in the middle of the night.”

Gainey said Abrams’ arrest came after she told officers to check the cameras Abrams had surrounding his home, ones he would tout whenever she’s previously called the police on him. To Gainey, it was long overdue.

“He shot it toward them. When I got to the door, he was still shooting it,” she said. “I asked him, ‘What is your effin’ problem?’”

Abrams admitted to spraying the flamethrower near the car, though he denied targeting the victims, the report said. The charge marks Abrams’ first felony arrest, though not his first violent charge; he’s previously been found guilty of three misdemeanor counts of domestic battery from 2002 to 2004.

Corbin is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.