Two men reportedly shot at two biracial children before shouting racial slurs at them near Leesburg, Florida, earlier this month, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said.
Deputies said they were called to the scene after James Reidnauer, 30, and Brent van Besien, 33, fired shots at the children, a 16-year-old boy and his 12-year-old sister, who were walking home from a convenience store.
Investigators said the men confronted the children on a trail on property owned by a nearby church, reports Orlando’s WFTV.
Michelle Sabb, the mother of the two victims, told WFTV on Wednesday that her children had gone to a BP gas station to buy candy, as they do almost daily.
“There is a path behind all of the homes on this road that all the children take to the bus stop,” she said. “The bus stop is in front of the church over here on Goose Prairie (Road), and that’s the route they take anywhere.”
— Myrt Price (@MPriceWFTV) March 27, 2019
Deputies said the two suspects fired at least two shots, one near the girl’s foot and one in the air, before shouting slurs at the biracial children.
The bullets missed and the children ran home.
Reidnauer and van Besien said they had thought the children were methamphetamine users, detectives said.
“They were screaming, ‘They’re shooting at us. They’re shooting at us,'” Sabb said. “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?”
Deputies have arrested both suspects on enhanced hate crime charges of aggravated assault with a firearm.
A 2017 Lake County booking photo of van Besien shows him with multiple tattoos, including one that appears to be an “Iron Cross,” a German military symbol that according to the Anti-Defamation League later became associated with Nazi Germany.
“After World War II, the medal was discontinued but neo-Nazis and other white supremacists subsequently adopted it as a hate symbol and it has been a commonly-used hate symbol ever since,” the ADL noted.