CLEARWATER, Fla. - Two teens in Pinellas County could face hate crime charges after the Clearwater Police Chief said they committed what he calls ‘bigoted behavior’ last weekend.
Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter said officers arrested two 16-year-old boys accused of shattering vehicle windows and slashing tires. He said the teens also and spray painted ‘very disturbing’ hate-filled messages on vehicles.
"We’re not talking about kids running around throwing toilet paper on a house," Slaughter explained. "We’re talking about painting racial slurs, anti-Semitic words and symbols and just homophobic things. I think those crossed a line," he said.
One of the teens attends Clearwater High School and the other is a student at Largo High School.
Two teens are accused of smashing vehicle windows, slashing tires and writing 'bigoted' messages.
"At age 16, 17, you’re looking to hopefully go on to higher education and that’s a very competitive space to go into and doing behavior like this is not something that’s very conducive to putting on an application," Slaughter said. "This type of behavior has consequences and I think that not tolerating this type of behavior is important for us and people need to know that this has consequences and they are long-reaching consequences and I’m very troubled by their behavior."
The incidents happened on Turtle Brooke Drive, Coachmakers Lane and Stag Run Boulevard in Clearwater.
Neighbors, who didn’t want to go on camera, told FOX 13 they are extremely disappointed. One victim, who didn’t want to be identified, said they’re thankful for their neighbors’ support.
The chief said the teens are learning a tough lesson.
Two teens are accused of smashing several car windows.
"We’re not going to tolerate this type of behavior and I think not minimizing it either and dismissing it as people are young and they make mistakes, there are certain things that are just unacceptable and the behavior in this particular incident was unacceptable. I think the more we share that message people will realize you just don’t cross that line," Slaughter stated.
According to Slaughter, some of the crimes were random, but the vehicles with racist and anti-Semitic slurs were targeted, resulting from what he said is a jealous boyfriend.
"I’m very disappointed in these gentlemen and I think they did some bigoted behavior that I’m very disappointed in. The totality of the story is that sometimes there’s a bigger picture here and you don’t know how these kids grew up, where they grew up and the conditions in which they grew up, so there’s always factors, so I don’t want to project that we’re not somewhat empathetic, but we’re not going to tolerate it," he said.
Two teens are accused of spray painting hate-filled messages on vehicles.
Each teen faces six charges in Clearwater and three charges in Tarpon Springs where Slaughter said they committed similar crimes.
FOX 13 reached out to the Tarpon Springs Police Department for more information about the incidents there and is waiting to hear back.
Slaughter said he referred hate crime charges to the state attorney who will decide whether or not to prosecute the teens on those charges.