The U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday the federal indictment of a white man in Loganville, Georgia, who, back in May, allegedly fired a gun at his Black neighbor’s home while also firing off racial slurs.
According to the DOJ’s press release, the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office has launched an investigation into 73-year-old Mark Wheeler after he was accused of brandishing a .22 caliber revolver and firing multiple shots in the direction of his Black neighbor’s house. The neighbor has not been identified publicly, and there haven’t been any details released regarding what led up to the shooting, but prosecutors claim that “by force and threat of force, (Wheeler) willfully injured, intimidated, and interfered with (the victim)” in violation of his civil rights and the Fair Housing Act.
Now, if you’re familiar with the Fair Housing Act, then you know that under the law, discriminating against a person’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status or disabilities when they are renting or buying a home is illegal. Since Wheeler has also been accused of racial slurs, the implication here is that he fired a gun at his neighbor simply because he doesn’t want Black people in his neighborhood.
At any rate, Wheeler’s attorney says her client is innocent.
“My client maintains his innocence and is looking forward to his day in court,” Catherine M. Williams, a federal public defender representing Wheeler, told The State. “We are waiting on the discovery from the Government and will evaluate it when we receive it,”
The DOJ noted that if he’s convicted, “Wheeler faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for both the civil rights and firearm charges.”
In the last few years alone, we’ve seen myriad cases where violent white people lashed out against their Black neighbors. Notably, Mount Laurel, New Jersey, resident Edward Matthews recently pleaded guilty to multiple felony counts, including bias intimidation, after he regularly harassed his Black neighbors with threats, racial slurs, physical violence and alleged property damage. Then there are more costly feuds between violent, aggressive and vehemently racist white neighbors and the Black people in their proximities. Some of these events cost lives, such as the incident that killed Ajike “AJ” Owens in Ocala, Florida, earlier this year.
And the fact is, there have been so many cases like this where law enforcement largely doesn’t appear to give a damn, which makes Wheeler’s arrest all the more significant.
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