Each year, Miami residents celebrate and promote peace on MLK Jr. Day by participating in the “Wheels Up, Guns Down” ride around town. The intention of the annual event is to help reduce violent crime by instead participating in the hobby of riding dirt bikes and ATVs.
This year, the peaceful event somehow degenerated into a heated and racially-charged confrontation. Weapons were drawn, and the Miami Police Department was called to respond.
The suspect, later identified as Mark Bartlett, was captured on cell phone video screaming at a group of black teenagers participating in the event. Bartlett repeatedly uses inflammatory and derogatory language towards the youngsters who he believed were causing a ruckus with their reckless joyriding.
The ordeal started when an unidentified woman approached the teenagers about blocking the street. She calls them a “bunch of thugs,” before walking away. At that moment, Bartlett exited his vehicle, with his weapon drawn, and asked the woman what happened. The woman claimed that one of the teenagers had run over her foot.
Later in the day, Miami police apprehended the 51-year-old suspect and charged him with illegally carrying around his firearm without the proper permits. Upon being released on bond, Bartlett spoke with media outlets and expressed his confusion. He asks, “Why am I being arrested when those kids are free to ride around?”
Police expected some level of chaos during the event. Days ago, several law enforcement agencies in Florida warned riders about breaking the law by taking ATVs on a public road. Police reiterated the dangers of riding recklessly. Despite the warnings, Miami Police made eleven arrests throughout the course of the event. The department also seized 33 dirt bikes and ATVs.