Derek Partee, a retired homicide detective, was volunteering at a polling station in North Carolina when he noticed something that didn’t seem quite right.
In the parking lot of the venue, just southwest of Charlotte, he noticed a suspicious car, Partee told the Raleigh News and Observer. The station was open Wednesday afternoon for early voters.
Another volunteer told him the man sitting in the vehicle had been taking photographs of people outside the venue and had been hanging around the area the week prior.
"He looked kinda scuzzy to me,” Partee told the newspaper Thursday. “And I’m like — to myself, as a retired detective from New York — he’s outta character. He’s outta place. And this is not a tourist area, it’s not a birdwatching area.”
As he walked toward the car to photograph the license plate, two men and a woman confronted Partee. All three were white. Partee is black.
One of the men said something about being a Republican.
“I said I am a Republican,” Partee said.
"He said, ‘Motherf***** you ain’t s***,’ ” Partee told the News & Observer. “They didn’t care whether I was a Democrat or a Republican, they just cared that I was black.”
Partee, who was campaigning for a Republican candidate, said he backed away from the group and called 911 after they continued to curse at him. On Facebook, he said the three had called him the n-word and hurled other racial epithets.
Police later arrested a 28-year-old man, Jason Donald Wayne, and charged him with ethnic intimidation, communicating threats, disorderly conduct and going armed to the terror of the public, according to jail records cited by the News & Observer. The two others were not charged with any crimes.
Partee posted photos of the trio on Facebook, in which one of the men is wearing a T-shirt with the logo of Marvel’s the Punisher and a gun holstered to his hip. The Punisher logo has become popular with some white-nationalist groups, as well as military, police and anti-government groups.
Partee was not immediately available for comment.
Wayne was arrested with a BB gun in his holster, police said. Open carry is legal at polling places unless they are at a location such as school, the News & Observer reported.
According to the paper, Wayne isn’t registered to vote in North Carolina:
State records show that someone with his name and date of birth is a convicted felon, having served more than a year in prison during 2015 and 2016 for assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.
Police and the FBI are considering whether federal charges against Wayne are appropriate.
The confrontation was not the only one at this polling site, according to Charlotte ABC affiliate WSOC:
Larry Shaheen, campaign chief of staff for Sen. Jeff Tarte, said there have been similar issues there for the past several days, describing everything from shouting to physical threats, specifically targeting female Republican volunteers and African-Americans.
“The fact that I had to step in between a voter and a female Republican volunteer to keep her from feeling verbally threatened and harassed was just unconscionable,” Shaheen said.