White men in car chased down Black teens on bikes, police say
Two white men are accused of chasing three black teenagers on bicycles. One of the men hurls racist insults, police in Manchester, Connecticut said.
The men Matthew Lemelin (27) and brother Michael (28), both from Manchester, were arrested on Monday and charged with, among other things, the risk of injury for a minor and reckless second-degree threat.
Matthew Lemelin has also been charged with second degree intimidation due to bigotry or bias.
The police responded to a report at around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday about a car trying to hit a cyclist and the theft of a bicycle from a pedestrian, the police said in a statement.
The adolescents reported that they were followed by a car with two male occupants while cycling and ran from the street. One of the boys told the police that they were almost hit by a car.
One of the men yelled at the teenagers with racial insults, got out of the car, ran after them, and took one of the bicycles that had been dropped while the teenagers were running. No injuries were reported.
After questioning the young people and witnesses, the police said that they had identified the suspects, found the car in a house and tried to contact the residents of the residence, but were unsuccessful. Additional evidence was gathered on Monday and warrants for Matthew and Michael Lemelin were received. Lieutenant Ryan Shea said the incident had been investigated as a hate crime.
Michael and Matthew Lemelin. (Manchester Police Department)
The mother of one of the teenagers, Christina Torres, told NBC Connecticut that her 13-year-old son Nasir White and two of his friends were on their way to a gas station when the suspects called them the N-word.
She said the trio ran down the street, hid in a bush, and called 911. Torres said she always told her son that because of the color of his skin, he had to work ten times harder. She said it hurts to tell him that, but it's the truth.
"I have no doubt that if they got their hands on them, they would hurt one of these little boys," said Torres. "We had to stand together because it could have been very different; I could have woken up on Sunday morning when I heard" that my child was dead.
"We need justice and work to ensure that such incidents do not happen to another group of black boys," she told NBC Connecticut.
Other charges against Matthew Lemelin include second-degree peacekeeping, sixth-degree theft, and third-degree criminal mischief.
Michael Lemelin is also charged with breaking the second degree.
Both are being held for a $ 150,000 bond and are due in court on August 18. It wasn't immediately clear on Wednesday morning whether the men had lawyers.
A woman who identified herself as Michael Lemelin's fiancée Samantha Bartone contacted NBC Connecticut and said he was "an upright citizen and not a racist".
"We support Black Lives Matter," she said.
In a telephone interview on Thursday, Bartone said Michael Lemelin "was drawn into something he shouldn't have been involved in".
He drove his brother to a 7-Eleven store to buy cigars on Sunday morning, but the store was closed, Bartone said. On the way home, Matthew Lemelin jumped out of the car, chased the teenagers and called them racist insults, she said, adding that Michael Lemelin was returning home without his brother.
"Michael would never have said anything like that," she said. "Matthew is from Florida. Apparently they do things differently there."
Bartone said what happened was very tragic.
"We are very sad about all of this," she said.
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