At least four people witnessed the alleged assault and the accused faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted
In yet another disturbing instance of hate crime this year, a White man in Michigan has been charged with assaulting a Black teen with a bike lock. The attack, which occurred on June 6, shattered the teen's jaw and knocked out several of his teeth, reports The Washington Post. Federal prosecutors on Tuesday charged the accused, 42-year-old Lee James Mouat, with a hate crime for "willfully causing bodily injury to an African-American teenager because of the teenager's race." According to a criminal complaint released this week, at least four people witnessed the alleged assault and Mouat faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
James Lee Mouat was charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, and ethnic intimidation. According to authorities, he attacked 18-year-old Devin Freelon Jr. at a southeastern Michigan beach https://t.co/iu2wEJJzK6— Reformed Bully (@ReformedBully) June 9, 2020
18-year-old Devin Freelon Jr. and his two friends were reportedly listening to music on a portable speaker and walking to the parking lot in William C. Sterling State Park — a public park with a lakeside beach about 35 miles south of Detroit — when the incident occurred. As per the criminal complaint written by Sean D. Nicol, a special agent with the FBI's Detroit Division in Ann Arbor, Michigan, two witnesses said that they heard a White man loudly complaining about the music and calling the boys the n-word and "monsters."
Devin Freelon Jr., 18, of Monroe, reportedly was assaulted on Saturday while visiting Sterling State Park with friends. He’s black. The suspect is white. https://t.co/7rqq6bw0xh— Monroe News (@monroenews) June 8, 2020
"These n****** are playing gang music," said the man — who was later identified by police as Mouat — according to one of the witnesses. "I want to hit them with this cooler. I wish someone would say something to me so I can beat them." The second witness told the investigator that they observed Mouat, who was walking with his family, approach the boys in the parking lot and threaten to "bash their heads in if they don't turn [their music] down." Meanwhile, Freelon revealed that this man whom he had never met before, also yelled "N****** don't belong on this beach" at him and his friends, who are also Black.
A third witness reported hearing Mouat yelling "Black lives don't matter" at the teens. One of Freelon's friends, who is also cited as a witness in the criminal complaint, informed the investigator that the accused had repeatedly shouted "This is my beach, n*****" while approaching them and that by Mouat's posture and attitude, he had anticipated a fight. Thus, when the man confronted them, the teen said "We'll kick your a**," to which Mouat responded: "There are three of you... that's not fair." The boy then stepped ahead of his friends and said, "I'll kick your a** alone," following which the man walked away commenting: "I've got something for you in my car."
At that point, the teen told the investigator, he thought the man was leaving with his family but then heard Mouat yell, 'Hey!" just as he swung a chain bike lock at Freelon's face. It struck his jaw and sent him staggering into their friend, states the complaint, and witnesses revealed that the accused allegedly swung the chain again and missed. Moments later, police arrived on the scene and stopped the encounter. Freelon was immediately taken to the hospital by an ambulance.
MONROE, MICHIGAN - A 42-year-old man from Newport, Michigan has been arrested in what police are calling a racially-motivated attack after he reportedly hit a young Black man, Devin Freelon Jr. in the face with a bike chain and used a racial slur. pic.twitter.com/D3p6yblqIP— DMV (@TheDMVDailyy) June 8, 2020
Many in the community rallied around the following the disturbing incident, with demonstrators holding "Justice for Devin" gathering outside the county courthouse on June 9, the day Mouat was arraigned. A GoFundMe campaign set up by the teen's cousin Kiara Phillips raised over $18,000 for his treatment and she revealed that the incident happened days before Freelon graduated from high school. "This year has already taken a lot from him as a senior and as an African American, with the tension going on in America currently it’s a shame the hate in this world has taken another thing from him," she wrote.