Three men from Texas, who drove to Gainesville to attend Richard Spencer’s speech Thursday, were arrested after one of the men shot into a group of protesters, Gainesville Police said.
About an hour after Spencer’s event ended at the Phillips Center of Performing Arts, at about 5:30 p.m., brothers William Fears, 30, and Colton Fears, 28, of Passadena, Texas and their friend 28-year-old Tyler Tenbrink of Richmond, Texas, were driving in a silver Jeep and stopped at the corner of Southwest 34th Street and Southwest Archer Road to argue with protesters who were at a bus stop, according to a press release.
Witnesses told police they heard one of the car’s passengers yell “Heil Hitler” and other chants, according to an arrest report.
Tenbrink got out of his car, as the Fears brothers encouraged him to shoot and kill the protesters, said GPD spokesperson Officer Ben Tobias. He shot once into the group of six to eight people, missing the group and hitting the side of the Radio Shack building, and got back into the Jeep.
As the three drove away, one member of the group that had just been shot at, read and remembered the license plate number on the Jeep, Tobias said.
“I am absolutely blown away by the strength of this person and their ability to recall details,” Tobias said.
Less than four hours later, about 20 miles north of Gainesville, a deputy of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, who was off duty and on his way home, spotted the Jeep and matching license plate, according to the arrest report.
Alachua Police Department, High Springs Police Department and the Florida Highway Patrol stopped the car at mile marker 405 on Interstate 75, according to the press release.
The Fears brothers stood on Hull Road before Spencer’s speech and talked to press Thursday. Colton Fears, who identified himself as Sam Hyde to reporters, was wearing a Nazi-era pin with a skull symbol and said he wanted to get into the event to hear Spencer speak.
“The dude does definitely got more balls than a lot of people,” Colton Fears said.
The brothers said they had gone to Charlottesville and were disappointed when Spencer did not speak there. William Fears, who identifies as a member of the Alt-right, said the 1950s would be an ideal world.
“I think whites should be in control of their own destiny,” William Fears told journalists.
Right after Spencer’s speech and before the shooting incident, Tenbrink was identified by the mass of protesters. About 100 people chased after him and screamed “Nazi scum” until Tenbrink jumped over police barricades. As he was handcuffed, the crowd cheered. Tenbrink was later released.
Tobias said the group Tenbrink shot at was made up of white people.
Tobias said the efforts to find and arrest the men were greatly aided by the help of a cooperation between Federal Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement. Last Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency before Spencer’s event so law enforcement could work together, according to Alligator archives.
ACSO Sheriff Sadie Darnell said she was impressed by the collaboration between the policing agencies. It was unlike anything she had seen during her 39 years in law enforcement, she said.
“This was an unprecedented mobilization,” she said. “I woke up this morning still a bit tired but incredibly proud of the men and women in the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office.”
Commissioner Ken Cornell said the agencies that helped protect campus and the city were top notch.
“There were some hiccups, but very few, and we got through them quickly,” he said.
Cornell also credited the response by the city as incredible.
“(Spencer’s) message is minimized because it is a message of the past,” he said. “Our message of unity and togetherness is one of the future.”
The Fears brothers were arrested on a charge of attempted homicide, and Tenbrink was arrested on charges of attempted homicide and carrying a firearm as a convicted felon.
After his arrest, Tenbrink admitted to detectives he was the shooter.
The three were taken to the Alachua County Jail where, as of press time, the brothers remain in lieu of a $1 million bond and Tenbrink remains in lieu of a $3 million bond.