Three white men, two of whom have shown “connections to extremist groups,” face charges of attempted homicide following a shooting in Gainesville on Thursday evening.
Richard Spencer had come to the University of Florida for a speaking engagement, and was immediately drowned out by hundreds of protesters inside the Phillips Center and outside the venue. At least two of the men were among the first sympathizers of the alt-right to show up, immediately interviewed by press waiting for the event to begin.
After the event, about 5:30 p.m., the three men – 28-year-old Tyler Tenbrink of Richmond, Texas; 30-year-old William Fears and 28-year-old Colton Fears of Passadena, Texas – drove in a silver Jeep when they approached a group of protesters, according to Gainesville Police.
The protesters were sitting at a bus stop on Southwest Archer Road when the men approached, and one of the passengers yelled”Hail Hitler” and other chants at them. One of the protesters then used a baton to smash the rear window of the vehicle. After the vehicle backed up about ten feet, Tenbrink exited with a handgun and fired, his single shot hitting a building nearby. His friends urged him on, telling Tenbrink to “kill them, shoot them.”
One of the protesters memorized the vehicle’s tag number and reported it to law enforcement. Due to Spencer’s appearance at the University of Florida’s campus, officers from across the state had been mobilized in Gainesville. According to a GPD press release issued Friday morning, “law enforcement resources from the local, state and Federal level were still operating in Unified Command, which allowed local investigators and FBI analysts to quickly identify the vehicle and possible occupants.”
The men were arrested at about 9 p.m., spotted by an Alachua County Sheriff’s deputy about 20 miles north of Gainesville. Units from the Alachua Police Department, High Springs Police Department and the Florida Highway Patrol conducted a “high-risk felony stop” on the Jeep at the 405 mile marker of Interstate 75 North.
Tenbrink face additional charges of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Colton Fears, who gave reporters his name as Sam Hyde, had been wearing a green Nazi-era skull pin before the protests began, swearing he did it to “troll” liberals. He added that he wasn’t racist because he has a “Mexican girlfriend.”
“This incident and how quickly it was handled displays the true teamwork that went into yesterdays Unified Command Center activation,” said Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell. “Information was quickly gathered and disseminated to all law enforcement partners involved and a potentially dangerous situation was averted quickly with the arrests.”
The men remain in the Alachua County Jail as of press time. The Fears brothers remain in lieu of a $1 million bond, and Tenbrink on a $3 million bond.