A Black teenager was driving his family’s Mercedes-Benz this week through a neighborhood in Sanford, the Florida city known for the killing of Trayvon Martin, when he and his friend saw two White men angrily approach the vehicle with a traffic cone and a large stone.
“Tell them what you were doing!” one of the men yelled at the 16-year-old driver, accusing him of “burning out, racing” on the street.
“Get out of my neighborhood!” the other yelled at the teen, calling him an expletive.
After the teen — identified by authorities as Jermaine Jones — asked why one of the neighbors at the scene appeared to be carrying a gun, a White woman on the street responded, “You’re the one who would get a gun!”
“You don’t belong here!” she yelled.
Video of the confrontation Tuesday would soon go viral. Many praised the teen for handling a situation that could have ended differently had he not recorded it and called his parents for backup. Others also condemned the men’s behavior and accused them of racially profiling the teen.
“If I just were a White person driving through that neighborhood, I wouldn’t have been treated the way I was treated,” Jermaine, with his father’s permission, told The Washington Post in an interview.
Hours after the incident, Howard Hughes, 61, and Donald Corsi, 52, were arrested on felony charges of criminal mischief with property damage, according to reports obtained by The Post. Hughes also faces a misdemeanor charge of battery, and Corsi has been charged with a felony weapons offense of throwing a deadly “missile” into a vehicle.
Neither Hughes nor Corsi responded to requests for comment Thursday. A lawyer for Hughes did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday. Court records show Hughes has pleaded not guilty.
Corsi did not yet have a lawyer and had not entered a plea, according to court records.
C.J. Jones, the teen’s father, rushed to the scene with his wife shortly after his son called him. He told The Post the incident immediately brought up memories of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old Black man chased and murdered by three White men while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood in 2020.
“If we were not there, [law enforcement] would have never charged [the men] though we had evidence right there,” said Jones, 56. “We could have lost our son that day.”
Jones deemed the charges “really mild” because, unlike in the Arbery case, no hate crime charges have been filed. Jermaine said it took law enforcement officers two to three hours to place the men under arrest after investigating, despite his account of what had happened and the shattered window, rock and cone as evidence.
“It seemed as [if] the case was going to go sour,” Jones said.
Sanford, about 25 miles outside Orlando, is perhaps best known as the city where neighborhood-watch volunteer George Zimmerman fatally shot Martin, an unarmed Black teenager, in February 2012. Zimmerman claimed self-defense in shooting Martin, 17, in a case that was among the first to set the stage for the nation’s recent racial reckoning — and that helped give birth to the Black Lives Matter movement. Zimmerman was acquitted on all counts of second-degree murder and manslaughter in July 2013.
Jermaine and his passenger were on their way to a friend’s house in the neighborhood Tuesday when the men later identified by law enforcement as Hughes and Corsi first yelled “verbal threats” as they approached the car, the arrest reports state. Jermaine said he stopped the car and apologized to the men in an attempt to de-escalate the situation. But the situation did not de-escalate, Jermaine told The Post.
Instead, one of the men, later identified by officers as Hughes, walked toward the car holding an orange cone and hit the driver’s-side rear door with it, which caused a large dent under the window, according to the report.
The other man, later identified by officers as Corsi, approached the car and threw a “large stone with sharp edges” into the rear driver’s side, shattering the window, the report states.
The rock was still inside the back seat when the officers arrived, the report states. Jermaine and his friend exited the car shortly after the objects were thrown because they feared for their lives, officers wrote.
Jermaine did not suffer any injuries, but his friend said one of the men hit him in the stomach with the cone, the report states.
Moments later, Jermaine began filming with his phone and then called 911 to report the incident, he said.
“They tried to pull guns on us, too,” he told the dispatcher, according to a recording of the call obtained by The Post.
Jermaine later added in a video posted to social media: “What one of them said, they was like, ‘Officer, we don’t tolerate none of that in our neighborhood,’ basically saying I ain’t belong in their neighborhood.”
“Don’t believe what he’s telling you!” one of the men is heard yelling in the background of the 911 call. “He’s lying!”
Jones said he will take care of the car’s repairs, something he considers to be minor collateral damage compared to the emotional scars the incident has left on his son.
“The night that it happened, I had a nightmare that I didn’t handle it the way that I handled it,” Jermaine said. “Last night, I couldn’t go to sleep until 3 or 4 in the morning.”
Hughes and Corsi have both been released on bond, according to court records. They are due back in court on Aug. 16.