GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Law enforcement has arrested three Houston area men accused of taunting and threatening protestors outside a Richard Spencer event at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Investigators said one of the suspects fired a weapon during the altercation.
Tyler Tenbrink, 28, and brothers William Fears, 30, and Colton Fears, 28, are charged with attempted homicide. The suspects, who hail from Richmond and Pasadena, are being held at the Alachua County Jail.
Tenbrink is a convicted felon and faces additional charges of unlawful possession of a firearm, the department said.
Police said two of the suspects have shown connections with extremists groups.
Tenbrink and the Fears brothers, riding in a silver Jeep, drove up to protesters after the Spencer engagement at around 5:30 p.m. The men taunted the group by throwing up Nazi salutes and shouting chants about Hitler to the group that was standing at a bus stop.
At one point, officers said Tenbrink pulled out a handgun while the Fears encouraged him to shoot at the victims. The allegedly armed suspect then fired a single shot, which missed the protestors and hit a nearby building.
Police said the suspects then drove off.
Investigators said one of the protestors remained calm during the altercation and was bale to get the Jeep's licence plate number, which was given to law enforcement.
Nearly four hours later, an Alachua County deputy was on the way home after working the Spencer event when he spotted the suspect's vehicle. Officers with the Alachua Police Department, High Springs Police Department and the Florida Highway Patrol conducted a high-risk felony stop on the vehicle on Interstate 75 North and took Tenbrink and the Fears brother into custody.
Florida officials said the suspects admitted to their involvement in the event during a press conference Friday, but did not disclose why Tenbrink and the Fears brothers were in town.
The Fears brothers are being held on a $1 million bail each and Tenbrink being held for $3 million.
“I am amazed that immediately after being shot at, a victim had the forethought to get the vehicle’s license number” GPD officer Ben Tobias said. “That key piece of information allowed officials from every level of multiple agencies to quickly identify and arrest these persons. This was an amazing team effort by everyone involved.”
Gainesville police said law enforcement resources from the local, state and federal level were operating at the time in anticipation of a possible violent outbreak or other altercation sparked by the Spencer event.
“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.”
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