Police in Gainesville arrested three men for in connection with a shooting following an appearance on Thursday afternoon by the white nationalist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida.
The men, who traveled from Texas to attend Spencer’s controversial speech, are accused of shouting chants about Hitler, making Nazi salutes and firing a gun at a man with whom they were arguing, Gainesville Police said in a press release. They have been charged with attempted murder.
Police identified the suspects as three Texas men: Tyler Tenbrink, 28, of Richmond; and William Fears, 30, and Colton Fears, 28, of Pasadena. Tenbrink, who was accused of firing the weapon, has a felony record and was also charged with illegal possession of a firearm.
According to an arrest report, the three men were in a car when they stopped by a bus stop and began arguing with a man, who was in a group of six to eight people. That person then hit the suspects’ vehicle with a baton. Tenbrink got out of the car, and allegedly told the man, “I’m going to fucking kill you.” The Fears brothers told Tenbrink to use his weapon. Tenbrink fired his handgun, missed, and the group fled the scene.
Police located and arrested the suspects roughly 20 miles north of Gainesville.
Both Tenbrink and William Fears appear to have been committed white nationalists. Before he was arrested, Tenbrink told a Washington Post reporter that he had attended the “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville and applauded Spencer because “the man’s got the brass to say what nobody else will.” Fears told NBC that Spencer’s speech will “normalize the idea for white people to have an identity, to advocate for their own interests and to advocate for our own existence.”
If Tenbrink fights the charges against him, he may be able to attempt a “Stand Your Ground” defense, despite being prohibited from possessing firearms. The law, which originated in Florida, offers broad protections for people who claim self-defense in shootings. A state court ruled in 2015 that felons can cite Stand Your Ground if they fire a gun in self defense, so long as they believe themselves to be at imminent risk of death or bodily harm. The same year, a felon successfully used a Stand Your Ground defense to overturn two manslaughter convictions, despite the fact that he was prohibited owning a gun at the time of the incident.
“It depends on how creative the defense attorney is,” said Glenn Hess, State Attorney for the 14th Circuit of Florida. “If he got out of the car after it was hit and shot at the guy, that’s retribution, not Stand Your Ground. But if he argues he got out of his car to check on the damage, was confronted by the guy with the baton, and said he felt threatened, then that’s Stand Your Ground.”