ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Three people have been arrested days after a Jewish passerby was attacked by a group of self-proclaimed neo-Nazis who yelled antisemitic slogans outside a central Florida shopping plaza over the weekend, authorities said Friday.
Group leader Burt Colucci, 45, and Joshua Terrell, 46, are each charged with battery with a hate crime enhancement, while Jason Brown, 47, is charged with grand theft, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office. All three are members of the National Socialist Movement, one of the nation’s largest neo-Nazi groups, officials said.
More than a dozen demonstrators, wearing Nazi garb, protested at an intersection near the University of Central Florida on Saturday and waved a swastika flag from a highway overpass on Sunday.
During Saturday's demonstration, some participants got into a fight with a passerby who confronted the group, but no arrests were made at the time.
University of Central Florida student David Newstat, who is Jewish, told WOFL-TV that he had driven by the group and denounced their hatred, prompting one of the neo-Nazis to spit on him as others surrounded his car.
“I’m trying to go to the store, to Target, and I’m coming back home, and I’m being berated by Nazis,” Newstat said. “My grandfather was a survivor. Other members of my family were survivors of the Holocaust and migrated to the U.S. after. It’s very sad to see people like this can be so ignorant and can have so much hatred built up in their hearts.”
Newstat said he then got out of his vehicle, started recording the group and pushed a demonstrator who spat at him. He said the demonstrators then punched, kicked and pepper-sprayed him.
“I’m literally Jewish and I got attacked, assaulted, pepper-sprayed, spit on, you name it,” Newstat said.
Investigators watched video of the incident and said Newstat was punched repeatedly by Terrell and pepper-sprayed by Colucci after he pushed an older demonstrator to the ground, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Brown then stole the victim’s phone, which was later found “damaged beyond repair,” according to affidavits released by the sheriff's office.
The next day, the group gathered on an overpass but authorities from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Florida Highway Patrol said they disbanded them.
Orange County in central Florida is home to the nation's biggest theme park resorts. The demonstrations took place a week after antisemitic flyers were distributed to hundreds of homes in two South Florida cities with large Jewish populations.
Online jail and court records didn't list whether Terrell, Colucci or Brown had attorneys who could comment.