VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — A man who was accused of pointing a gun and yelling racial slurs at a Black family while driving through an area in DeLand has been identified and charged with a hate crime, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said.
Detectives said they identified Nicholas Gordon, 21, of DeLeon Springs using the victims’ description and nearby surveillance video.
“This type of behavior will not be tolerated in Volusia County,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said Tuesday. “I want everyone to know this Sheriff’s Office will do everything possible to track down and arrest anyone who commits such an abhorrent act of hate in this community.”
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The victims — a mother, father and two children under the age of 12 — reported the incident Sunday after deputies said they were threatened on Spring Garden Avenue at the intersection of Glenwood Road.
The family said a four-door yellow hatchback carrying four people pulled up next to them and a passenger pulled out a handgun and stated, “I will kill you (expletive).”
The family said they were in fear for their lives and that the incident was unprovoked. The family had no previous interactions in traffic with the suspect vehicle, or any encounters that would lead to a dispute on the road, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies said the family drove away from the intersection to try to get to safety, but the suspect vehicle chased after them, and caught up with them when they got stopped in traffic at the intersection of International Speedway Boulevard.
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The family told deputies the driver stepped out of the car and yelled more obscenities at them before getting back in, turning around and fleeing northbound.
The Sheriff’s Office took over the case and began working to identify the suspect vehicle, which they soon found on video surveillance footage from a business on 15A between Glenwood and ISB.
In the video, detectives saw the victims’ vehicle heading south on 15A, with the yellow suspect vehicle, a yellow Chevrolet Spark, following close behind. About two minutes later, the video showed the suspect vehicle speeding northbound up 15A.
The Sheriff’s Office said detectives took photos of the suspect vehicle and gave them to all patrol deputies. On Monday evening, a deputy stopped the car traveling northbound on 15A.
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The deputy conducted a traffic stop, identified Gordon and had him step out of the vehicle while other deputies and detectives responded, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The deputy told Gordon the reason for the stop was a recent traffic incident. Gordon initially said he hadn’t been in town; he also said he didn’t have any weapons in the vehicle. However, he later admitted there was a gun in his lunchbox, and said he had an idea of why he was pulled over: “I think I know what it is. It was that Black lady that brake-checked me, and then she started trying to follow me…”
When detectives arrived to interview Gordon, he initially denied involvement in the incident. When he was shown the surveillance image of his vehicle, he confirmed he was the passenger in it.
The Sheriff’s Office reported that Gordon said the incident stemmed from the family’s vehicle backing into his car and fleeing, and said that he and his friends gave chase to try and exchange information. However, detectives examined Gordon’s car and found no visible damage. There was never a report made to law enforcement about the alleged crash.
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Detectives also asked why Gordon armed himself during the incident. He said it was because “he knew (the victims) were African American and he knew from past experiences African Americans can be violent.” According to Gordon’s arrest report, a detective “asked what the people did, other than being Black, that would make him feel threatened enough to have a gun ... Nicholas advised nothing.”
“At the conclusion of the investigation all evidence indicated this incident was clearly just a violent hate crime where the suspect pointed a firearm directly at the victims, a family in their car with children, who were solely targeted for being African American,” detectives wrote in closing.
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Gordon was charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a firearm, child abuse, and carrying a concealed firearm after it was discovered he didn’t possess a valid concealed weapons permit.
Because the case is classified as a hate crime, the charges are enhanced.
Gordon was being held without bail Tuesday at the Volusia County Branch Jail.
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