Monday, January 22, 2018
Public safety

Man killed in shooting near Brooksville involved in 1990 racial brawl

A Hernando County man at the center of a deadly 1990 brawl between white and black youths that stoked racial tensions in Brooksville was shot and killed Saturday night, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office says.

Kenneth "Kenny" Schreffler, 43, was killed and his girlfriend, Amber Rivenbark, 27, wounded in a shooting by Juan Francisco Perez, 29, of Dade City after an altercation near Brooksville, sheriff's officials said Sunday.

Rivenbark and Schreffler, both Brooksville residents, were shot outside at two different locations on Desales Street, said sheriff's spokeswoman Denise Moloney.

The Sheriff's Office has not said what led to the shooting, but said in a statement that "all parties involved in this incident were previously acquainted with each other."

Rivenbark was taken to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Hudson and could be released as soon as today, said Robin Webb, Rivenbark's mother.

The bullet pierced the right side of Rivenbark's back but didn't hit any organs, Webb said.

To Webb's understanding, Perez and Schreffler were already on tense terms when they saw each other at a friend's house and a confrontation began outside.

Schreffler retrieved a baseball bat from the house, but Perez started shooting, first hitting Rivenbark, Webb said. Then Perez took aim at Schreffler, who had fallen to the ground and was pleading, "Don't shoot me, bro."

State records show that both Schreffler and Rivenbark have been found guilty of drug charges within the past few years. But the incident, Webb said, was not drug-related.

"He had moved past that," Webb said. "Him and Amber were getting everything together and getting their life straight."

On her Facebook page, Rivenbark posted on Oct. 27 that she was in a relationship with Schreffler.

Perez, who also was treated at a hospital for an undisclosed injury, faces charges of second-degree murder, aggravated battery with a firearm, carrying a concealed firearm and grand theft, the Sheriff's Office said.

Perez pleaded guilty in 2003 to charges that he gave a false name to law enforcement and driving on a suspended or revoked license, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. In 2006, he was found in contempt of court for violating a domestic violence injunction.

On May 19, 1990, Schreffler, who is white, was involved in a brawl with black youths during which his friend, 19-year-old Russell Coats, was beaten to death.

The 1990 brawl at the Oak Park Apartments off U.S. 41 cast a spotlight on race relations in Brooksville at a time when no black resident had ever served on the City Council. Pallbearers at Coats' funeral wore white T-shirts in a show of racial solidarity.

A grand jury said Schreffler "incited the hostility" when he engaged in a fight with black youths. Schreffler, the only white person charged, said he fought in self-defense.

But the fight, officials said, led to a confrontation later that night between at least 14 black youths, armed with boards, and about a dozen white people, some of whom also were armed, that left Coats dead.

Two different juries later acquitted Schreffler of battery and disorderly conduct charges. He later told a reporter the brawl led him to become a racist and segregationist.

A judge nonetheless ruled that Schreffler had violated his probation and sentenced him to four-and-a-half years in prison. Schreffler served six months because of prison crowding.

Eight young black men and juveniles were charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Coats, who was white. John W. Smith, the only defendant tried before a jury, was convicted of third-degree murder in Coats' death. The seven others pleaded to lesser charges.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.


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