Pepper-spray suspect now faces hate crime charge, victims speak out

Local News

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – For discharging pepper spray at Palestine supporters near Fresno’s Blackstone and Nees, 62-year-old Brian Turner allegedly now faces hate crime enhancements to his charges.

KSEE24 News has learned the three victims are being represented by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization focused on Muslim civil rights.

The alleged victims are 20-year-old Ahmad Qutami, 18-year-old Faisal Aboelrish, and 19-year-old Faisel Alqutami. All three men are of Palestinian descent. They say they had attended the rally on Saturday night and were peacefully protesting from their car when Brian Turner pulled up alongside.

“He pulled up to the light next to us and then he’s like staring us down and shaking his head and then he says  ‘we don’t support Palestine,'” Qutami said.

Qutami says derogatory slurs were said by Turner Towards him and his friends. Quatami also took the video that has been widely circulated of Turner spraying the pepper spray. Faisal Aboelrish says Turner’s exchange between them got heated and caused him to start to get out of their car to confront Turner, but his friends talked him out of it.

“I went back in like didn’t even go near his car, I didn’t even close the door,” Aboelrish said. :”And then I got into the car and literally five seconds later, I look back at him and I see pepper spray coming towards my mouth.”

All three say they suffered burns from the pepper spray on their arms, hands, and faces. Aboelrish said his lips were swollen and he had difficulty breathing in the ensuing hours due to pepper spray getting into his mouth.

John Fairchild witnessed the incident first hand. He says he was driving to pick his son up when he passed the rally. He says he didn’t see any threatening behavior from the three young men.

“I didn’t see anything get physical I just saw the gentleman [Aboelrish] in the back lean out and was talking,” Fairchild said. “I couldn’t see any aggression, and then the next thing I know I just see a bottle come out of the window and everybody starting to get pepper-sprayed.”

Faisel Alqutami, the third victim, says Turner and the woman he was with was laughing the entire time.

“His wife was smoking a cigarette and smiling she didn’t care about anything,” Alquitami said. “She was just enjoying the life I guess.”

KSEE24 News attempted to reach Brian Turner and his attorney for comment but did not get a response. Qutami says he and his fellow Palestinians won’t be silenced for voicing their concerns about the conflict.

“We feel like everyone has the right to protest what they believe in peacefully, but we’re not going to let anyone shut us down.”

Brian Turner is scheduled to be arraigned in a Fresno County court on July 22.

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