Before firing a bullet into a group of people at a bus stop in Gainesville, Fla. on October 19, Tyler Tenbrink was verbally and physically harassed by counter protestors of Richard Spencer. Tenbrink was exiting Spencer’s controversial speech at the University of Florida, which he was attending as a supporter of the alt-right white supremacist, when a crowd of around 50 people descended on him.
The crowd followed Tenbrink closely, occasionally pushing into him. At one point, someone spit in his face. The protestors screamed at him, the phrases ranging from “Nazi scum” to “shame” to more violent phrases peppered with obscenities. The crowd also told him to kill himself.
Tenbrink kept his head down and did not engage with those around him. He was not able to escape the crush of people, so after several minutes he jumped a fence into a restricted area where members of security were waiting. He was ceremonially arrested and led away.
Tenbrink’s silent response to the counter protestors’ provocations did not hint at attempted homicide or even an angry reaction. But according to Gainesville police reports on the incident, Tenbrink, egged on by his two companions William and Colton Fears, fired a shot into a small crowd of people after a verbal altercation with them. The Fears brothers encouraged Tenbrink to shoot to kill.
No one was injured. The bullet missed and embedded itself in a concrete wall behind the counter protestors. Tenbrink and the Fears brothers fled the scene but were arrested later that evening.
Of the three men, Tenbrink appeared to have the least extreme rhetoric. In response to reporters’ questions he answered before Spencer’s speech, he seemed to attempt to distance himself from white supremacy.
"You’re getting me confused with a neo-Nazi. I want to hear what the man [Richard Spencer] has to say, of course,” Tenbrink said. “But I don’t necessarily agree, not 100 percent.”
William and Colton Fears more openly expressed racist and anti-immigrant opinions. They claimed to have been at the infamous protest in August in Charlottesville, Va. where a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd, ultimately killing a woman and injuring many others. But to Colton the violence was justified because he claims that he, too, was hurt in Charlottesville.
“I’m a white male who has been demonized for being a white male,” Colton Fears said. “In Charlottesville, I had hydrochloric acid thrown on my back. Two of my friends here, they got covered in hydrochloric acid too, just for being white.”
Colton also said that no more refugees should be allowed into the country under any circumstances, citing economic and racial reasons.
“You look at a third world country, what does every third world country have in common?” Colton said. “No white people.”
Tenbrink and the Fears brothers are in the Alachua County Jail. Tenbrink is being held under a $3 million bond and William and Colton Fears are each under a $1 million bond.