MIAMI — A white man was sentenced to probation in South Florida Tuesday for pulling a gun and yelling racial slurs in a traffic confrontation with a group of Black teenagers protesting housing inequality on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2019.
As part of a deal with prosecutors, Mark Bartlett, 55, pleaded guilty to a hate crime and aggravated assault and also agreed not to possess a firearm for a decade, the Miami Herald reported. Bartlett must also perform 300 hours of community service and take anger management classes and racial sensitivity training. Bartlett could have faced decades in prison, but Miami-Dade County Judge Alberto Milian granted Bartlett a withhold of adjudication, which means Bartlett will avoid a formal conviction.
Bartlett had previously claimed he was acting in self-defense during the confrontation, but following a 2021 hearing Milian ruled that Bartlett did not act reasonably in getting out of his SUV and pulling a pistol on the teenage protesters who had stopped traffic near the Brickell Bridge in downtown Miami. Bartlett had testified that he was being held hostage as his SUV was stuck in traffic and that he was goaded into repeatedly using a slur. He acknowledged the slur is a derogatory term for a Black person but denied that it was racist.
As a condition of his plea agreement, Bartlett apologized in court Tuesday and admitted that his words were hateful.
Cellphone video taken by bystanders shows Bartlett carrying a handgun and yelling racial slurs at the teenagers on bicycles blocking traffic in downtown Miami.
The protest involved potential loss of affordable housing in the impoverished Liberty City neighborhood of Miami. It coincided with a much larger event, “Wheels Up, Guns Down,” that was timed to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day and involved mostly young African-American men riding motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles in traffic, popping wheelies and riding while standing on the seats.