A white father and son in rural Mississippi have been arrested after they allegedly chased two Black teenagers on ATVs off the road and repeatedly shot at them from a pickup truck a sheriff s deputy said Friday.
Wade Twiner, 48, and his son, Lane Twiner, 22, have each been charged with three counts of aggravated assault, said Chief Deputy Joseph Head of the Yazoo County Sheriff's Office in central Mississippi. No one was hurt in the incident, which occurred on Sunday night, Head said.
The two teenagers were riding ATVs on a country road close to the Twiners' home, Head said. At some point, the father and son began chasing after the two boys, firing several shots and bumping into one of the ATVs with the pickup. A 9 mm handgun was recovered by authorities Sunday night. Both Twiners were arrested and transported to Yazoo County Regional Correctional Facility.
The Twiners have been released on bail. It was not immediately clear whether they have an attorney who could comment for them.
Yazoo County Sheriff Jake Sheriff told WLBT that the Twiners told law enforcement they own land on both sides of the road and that they shouldn’t have to deal with people riding ATVs on the road, since that’s against the law.
Although operating ATVs on public roads is illegal in Mississippi, that regulation is not strictly enforced. The sheriff told WLBT there were other people riding ATVs in the area of the Twiners' home on the day they allegedly confronted the teens
Head said they were looking into whether it was a potential hate crime, but he did not provide details as to why. The sheriff said in an interview with the Clarion Ledger that they were looking at social media posts made by one of the Twiners.
One Facebook post displayed the words “Redneck Neighborhood Watch” and a photo of a Confederate flag, the sheriff told the newspaper. The posts appear to have since been taken down.
Until recently, the Confederate flag was depicted on the Mississippi state flag. Legislators voted to change it in June after criticism that the flag is widely considered a racist symbol.
A hate crime is defined as a crime typically involving violence that is motivated by prejudice on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation or other grounds.
Authorities did not disclose further information, citing an ongoing investigation. Head said authorities are conducting interviews with everyone involved, and have one more potential witness to interview this weekend.
FBI spokesperson Brett Carr said the FBI is aware of the incident and is in regular contact with local authorities.
“If in the course of the local investigation, information comes to light of a potential federal civil rights violation, the FBI is prepared to investigate,” he said.
Leah Willingham is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.