Two white men are accused of chasing down three Black teens on bicycles, with one of the men hurling racial slurs, police in Manchester, Connecticut, said.
The men, Matthew Lemelin, 27, and brother Michael, 28, both of Manchester, were both arrested Monday and each faces charges including risk of injury to a minor and second-degree reckless endangerment.
Matthew Lemelin was also charged with second-degree intimidation based on bigotry or bias.
Police responded to a report at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday about a car that tried to hit a bicyclist and the theft of a bicycle from a pedestrian, Manchester police said in a statement.
The teens reported that while riding their bikes, they were followed and run off the road by a car with two male occupants. One of the boys told police they were almost hit by the car.
One of the men yelled racial slurs at the teens, got out of the car, ran after them and took one of the bicycles that had been dropped when the teens ran, the statement said. No injuries were reported.
After interviewing the teens and witnesses, police said they identified the suspects, located the car involved at a home, and attempted to contact the occupants of the residence, but were unsuccessful. On Monday, more evidence was gathered, and warrants were obtained for Matthew and Michael Lemelin. Lieutenant Ryan Shea said the incident was investigated as a hate crime.
The mother of one of the teens, Christina Torres, told NBC Connecticut her 13-year-old son Nasir White and two of his friends were on their way to a gas station when they were called the N-word.
She said the trio ran down the street, hid in a bush and called 911. Torres said she has always told her son that he has to work 10 times harder because of the color of his skin. She said it pains her to tell him that, but it's the truth.
"There's no doubt in my mind that if they got their hands on one of these little boys, they were going to hurt them," Torres said. "We got to stand together because this could have been very different; I could have woke up on Sunday morning hearing" that my child was dead.
"We need justice and we need to work to ensure incidents like this don't happen to another group of Black boys," she told NBC Connecticut.
Other charges against Matthew Lemelin include second-degree breach of peace, sixth-degree larceny and third-degree criminal mischief.
Michael Lemelin is additionally charged with second-degree breach of peace.
They are both being held on $150,000 bond and are due in court on Aug. 18. It was not immediately clear Wednesday morning if the men have lawyers.
A woman who identified herself as Samantha Bartone, the fiancé of Michael Lemelin, contacted NBC Connecticut and said he is "an upstanding citizen and not a racist."
"We support Black Lives Matter," she said.
In a phone interview on Thursday, Bartone said Michael Lemelin "was dragged into something that he shouldn't have been a part of."
He drove his brother to a 7-Eleven convenience store to purchase cigars on Sunday morning but the store was closed, Bartone said. On their way home, Matthew Lemelin jumped out of the car, chased the teens and called them racial slurs, she said, adding that Michael Lemelin returned home without his brother.
"Michael never would have ever said anything like that," she said. "Matthew is from Florida. Obviously they do things differently there."
Bartone said what happened was very tragic.
"We are very saddened by all of this," she said.