Three Men Charged In Pepper-Spraying Hate Crime

PANELS PARK, Fla.- Three Pinellas Park men accused of committing a hate crime against a group of boys have been charged.

A group of boys were riding their bikes to football practice when the three men used racial insults and pepper sprayed the boys in their face.

According to investigators Peter Afentakis, Corey Knous and John Schmidt were driving southbound on 62nd Street in Pinellas Park just after 3 p.m. on Thursday. The men saw two African-American boys and a Caucasian boy riding their bikes on the sidewalk.

Schmidt was in the front passenger seat with Afentakis driving. They began saying racial insults to the boys. According to investigators the men said, “Look it’s a pack of n******.” Schmidt then told Afentakis to stop the car.

The vehicle and the boys were stopped at a red light at the intersection of 2nd Street and 62nd Ave.

After a brief verbal argument, Schmidt got out of the car and pepper sprayed all three victims in the face and torso while continuing with the racial insults.

Investigators say after the boys were sprayed Schmidt returned to the car and the men left the scene.

Officers responded to the scene and patrolled the surrounding area. They located a car similar to the one Schmidt was driving in front of his residence at 67th Avenue.

All three suspects were arrested at the residence. Afentakis and Knous are charged with principle to child abuse. Schmidt is charged with three counts of child abuse. All charges are going to be submitted to the State Attorney’s Office with a Hate Crime enhancement due to the racial insults that were made at the time of the crime.

All of the boys were treated for their exposure to the pepper spray at the scene and were released to their parents. The boys told police that they had no prior involvement with the three suspects and were heading to football practice at a nearby school.