Florida strip mall owners accused of shooting at black men returning U-Haul van

Two black men claim the white owners of a Florida strip mall racially profiled them and opened fire as they returned a U-Haul van, assuming they were connected to ongoing vandalism there.

Charles McMillon Jr., his 10-year-old son and McMillon’s childhood friend, Kendrick Clemons, were dropping off a U-Haul van at the Fountain Plaza mall late Thursday in Tallahassee when they heard gunshots nearby, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

The trio then saw an elderly armed couple approaching with guns aimed toward them while yelling “don’t move” and telling them to surrender, McMillon told the newspaper.

McMillon, who was in his GMC truck at the time, then slammed the vehicle in reverse and sped off as more bullets rang out in the parking lot, he said.

“It was a life-threatening situation,” McMillon told the newspaper. “I didn’t even know where I was going. I had my head down and I was making sure my son was covered. And I just pushed the gas to the floor.”

A police officer who also in the parking lot at the time said he saw McMillon and Clemons arrive, adding in a report that “their actions were normal” and that they had done nothing unusual.

The owners of the strip mall, Wallace Fountain, 77, and his wife, Beverly Fountain, 72, were staking out the parking lot in another U-Haul truck when she said she heard someone siphoning gas nearby, prompting them to take action, according to a police report.

“Wallace stated he fired his Glock 19 in the air, possibly four times,” the report states. “He did not wish to cause harm, only scare the individuals who they suspected to be stealing gasoline.”

Beverly Fountain told cops she fired her .357 Magnum twice. Both she and her husband initially did not obey the officer’s commands to drop their weapons, but ultimately put their guns down and laid on the ground, police said.

No one was hurt during the shooting and McMillon’s truck was not hit by gunfire, but he insisted the Fountains should be facing more serious charges than aggravated assault without intent to kill.

“They saw three black people, unarmed, dropping off a U-Haul,” McMillon told the newspaper. “They got guns, they started shooting. That’s why it’s racially motivated.”

An attorney for McMillon said he’s now suing U-Haul and the shopping center over the incident.

“This country is seeing a wave of anti-black vigilantism,” attorney Charles Gee told the newspaper. “And what we’re seeing that almost happened [Thursday] is someone taking the law into their own hands and serving as cop, judge, jury and ultimately executioner.”

The Fountains, who appeared in court Friday, were granted pretrial release by a judge without bond, another aspect of the case that McMillon finds questionable, he said.

“If we’re the ones shooting at them, we would still be in jail right now, probably with no bond, probably with intent to kill,” he said. “But they got to walk free.”

Beverly Fountain, who retired as a secretary for the State Attorney’s Office in 1996, denied accusations that the shooting was racially motivated.

“Were they black?” Fountain asked when reached by the newspaper. “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.”

Fountain, who said she couldn’t discuss the case further, insisted the incident was “blown out of proportion,” the newspaper reports.

“The whole country has gone to hell with all these riots,” she said.

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