A young man who pointed a gun and yelled racial slurs at a Black family driving through the DeLand area has been identified and charged with a hate crime.
Volusia sheriff’s detectives identified Nicholas J. Gordon, 21 (DOB 6/26/2000), of DeLeon Springs, using the victims’ description and nearby surveillance video, which supported the victims’ account of the Sunday afternoon incident.
“This type of behavior will not be tolerated in Volusia County,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said Tuesday. “I want everyone to know this Sheriff’s Office will do everything possible to track down and arrest anyone who commits such an abhorrent act of hate in this community.”
The victims, a mother, father and two children under the age of 12, reported the incident Sunday after they were threatened on Spring Garden Avenue (State Road 15A). At the intersection of Glenwood Road, they said a 4-door yellow hatchback carrying 4 people pulled up next to them, and a passenger pulled out a handgun and stated: “I will kill you (N-words).” The victims said they were in fear for their lives, and that the incident was unprovoked – they’d had no previous interactions in traffic with the suspect vehicle, or any encounters that would lead to a dispute on the road.
The victims drove away from the intersection trying to get to safety, but the suspect vehicle chased after them, and caught up with the family again when they got stopped in traffic at the intersection of International Speedway Boulevard. The victims told deputies the driver stepped out of the car and yelled more obscenities at them before getting back in, turning around and fleeing northbound.
Detectives took over the case and began working to identify the suspect vehicle, which they soon found on video surveillance footage from a business on 15A between Glenwood and ISB. On the video, they saw the victims’ vehicle heading south on 15A, with the yellow suspect vehicle, a yellow Chevrolet Spark, following close behind. About 2 minutes later, the video showed the suspect vehicle speeding northbound up 15A.
The detectives took photos of the suspect vehicle and disseminated them to all patrol deputies, and on Monday evening a deputy spotted it, again traveling northbound on 15A. The deputy conducted a traffic stop, identified Gordon and had him step out of the vehicle while other deputies and detectives responded. The deputy told Gordon the reason for the stop was a recent traffic incident. Gordon initially said he hadn’t been in town; he also said he didn’t have any weapons in the vehicle. However, he later admitted there was a gun in his lunchbox, and said he had an idea of why he was pulled over: “I think I know what it is. It was that black lady that brake-checked me, and then she started trying to follow me…”
Detectives arrived to interview Gordon, and he initially denied involvement in the incident. When shown the surveillance image of his vehicle, though, he confirmed he was the passenger in it. He said the incident stemmed from the victim vehicle backing into his car and fleeing, and said that he and his friends gave chase to try and exchange information. However, detectives examined Gordon’s car and found no visible damage. There was never a report made to law enforcement about the alleged crash.
Detectives also asked why Gordon armed himself during the incident. He said it was because “he knew (the victims) were African American and he knew from past experiences African Americans can be violent.” A detective “asked what the people did, other than being black, that would make him feel threatened enough to have a gun,” according to Gordon’s arrest report. “Nicholas advised nothing.”
“At the conclusion of the investigation all evidence indicated this incident was clearly just a violent hate crime where the suspect pointed a firearm directly at the victims, a family in their car with children, who were solely targeted for being African American,” detectives wrote in closing.
Gordon was charged with 2 counts of aggravated assault with a firearm, child abuse, and carrying a concealed firearm after it was discovered he didn’t possess a valid concealed weapons permit. Because the case is classified as a hate crime, the charges are enhanced. Gordon was being held without bond Tuesday at the Volusia County Branch Jail.
— Volusia Sheriff’s Office Public Affairs & Media Relations Andrew Gant