Police: No current evidence of hate crime in Fresno pepper spray incident

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A protest for peace in Palestine became confrontational Saturday night near River Park.

Three men participating in the protest were driving on Nees Avenue, about to make a left turn onto Blackstone when police say 62-year-old Brian Lee Turner pulled up next to them.

The men asked Turner to honk if he supported Palestine.

Turner said he didn't. That's when police say an argument ensued and one of the three men got out of the car.

"The driver of that suspect vehicle produced pepper spray and began to spray towards that individual," says Fresno Police Lt. Rob Beckwith.

Police say the man got back into the vehicle.

"The subject again, for a second time, discharged the pepper spray into that vehicle, dousing all three of those subjects," Lt. Beckwith said.

Action News spoke with the alleged victims of the pepper spray assault over the weekend

"It looks like he was having fun when he was pepper spraying us," says Faisal Aboelrish.

According to investigators, it was the second burst of pepper spray that led to an arrest.

"The fact that he continues to spray the pepper spray and douse all of those subjects in the car, that would be an assault at that point," Lt. Beckwith said.

Fresno PD says while hate crime charges haven't been ruled out yet, there's no evidence of that right now.

"We have to be able to show that the individual who committed that did so specifically with the intent of targeting those folks or that group of individuals," Lt. Beckwith said.

Legal analyst Tony Capozzi tells Action News if charged and then convicted, Turner could face several years behind bars.

"Look at the video," he said. "He's not showing fear. He's smiling."

Officials tell us they still haven't heard from eyewitnesses of this incident, which can be limiting to their investigation.

Fresno police are encouraging anyone who saw the incident Saturday night to step contact them.
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