An elderly Florida couple, who are white, have been charged with aggravated assault after firing their guns when two cars containing Black people entered the parking lot of the strip mall they own. The incident sparked accusations of racism, with the vehicles' occupants saying they were shot at because they were Black and the shooters saying they were only trying to scare off would-be thieves who have been siphoning gas from cars in their lot.
Beverly and Wallace Fountain, both in their 70s, were arrested last week by Tallahassee people after an officer witnessed the shootings, in which no one was was harmed. The Fountains have been released without bail.
Charles McMillon Jr. said at a press conference this week he was dropping off a U-Haul van with his 10-year-old son and childhood friend Kendrick Clemons when they heard shots ring out.
McMillon said he told his son to duck. McMillon said he and Clemons were not asked why they were there — or even whether they needed any help. The couple just opened fire, they said. Both men fled and later spoke with police.
“They saw three Black people, unarmed, dropping off a U-Haul,” McMillon said. “They got guns, they started shooting. That’s why it’s racially motivated.”
In a brief interview with the Tallahassee Democrat, Beverly Fountain, who retired in 1996 as a longtime secretary for the State Attorney's Office, said the shooting was not about race, and that she did not see the color of the men's skin.
“Were they Black?” she asked. “We weren’t going off on that at all. You’ve got vandalism and theft going on at your property. Trying to protect your property — that’s the only issue.”
Tallahassee Police Department officers arrested the Fountains that night on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill. Officers found several handguns, including a .357-caliber Magnum and a Glock 19, as well as a shotgun in the couple's U-Haul.
The officers, who observed the incident, said the two men did nothing wrong and appeared only to be returning a U-Haul vehicle.
The Fountains said they had been staking out the parking lot after incidents in which people siphoned gas from cars parked there, police said.