Pepper spray suspect unlikely to face hate crime charge

Local News

FRESNO, California. (KSEE) – A man who police say was caught on camera pepper-spraying Palestine supporters near a protest this weekend has been arrested.

The Fresno Police Department says 62-year-old Brian Turner was arrested Sunday night thanks to a victim who recorded the entire incident on his phone.

As dozens of Palestine supporters protested the deadly violence overseas Saturday night, not everyone driving by Blackstone and Nees avenues agreed with their message.

A video captured an argument between a car of supporters and Turner as they were both stopped at a light.

Booking photo of Brian Turner provided by the Fresno Police Department.

“During the argument, one of the subjects in the victim vehicle got out of that vehicle and began to approach the suspect vehicle in somewhat of an aggressive manner,” explained Lt. Rob Beckwith.

That’s when Turner is seen spraying pepper spray into their car. Police say Turner continued, hitting three people with the chemical even after the man got back into the car.

Turner then drove off, only to be arrested 24 hours later on an felony assault charge.

Police say it’s unlikely it will be ruled a hate crime.

“It appears the contact was actually initiated by the victims in this case so at this point we just don’t have evidence that shows that the suspect went to that location for that specific reason,” says Beckwith.

Islamic Cultural Center Executive Director Reza Nekumanesh says he was hit with a Gatorade bottle during the protest, but that won’t stop him from fighting for his cause.

“You know trying to raise the voice of those folks who are fighting for justice that are fighting for basic human dignity and rights and the basic right to exist,” says Nekumanesh.

The Fresno State Muslim Student Association is making new signs ahead of another planned protest and vigil Tuesday night.

“You can throw bottles of Gatorade you can pepper spray all day long but the fact remains we will be resilient in our calls for justice and to end that apartheid state,” Nekumanesh says.

With a Pro Israel protest planned for Thursday, the Fresno Police Department says it is committed to keeping everyone safe

“We respect an individual’s right to protest and the expectation they are able to do that peacefully and that’s no different in this case,” Beckwith says.

In an effort to prevent rising tensions overseas from hitting home, organizers of Tuesday’s Palestine event say they won’t be instigating at the counter-protest later this week.

They say everyone has the right to hold a protest, even if they disagree with the cause.

As of Monday night, Turner has not made his $150,000 dollar bail.

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July 23 2021 05:30 pm

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