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Islamic Group Wants Hate Crime Probe. Fresno PD Unsure.



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A leading Islamic-rights group is calling for a hate crime investigation after a Fresno man was arrested for allegedly pepper-spraying three pro-Palestinian protesters. But police say they are unsure if it was a hate crime.

“We don’t have information that (Brian Turner) specifically went to that location with the intent of assaulting these individuals. What we do know is that the subjects in the victim’s vehicle actually initiated the contact with the suspect.” — Fresno Police Lt. Rob Beckwith

Police arrested Brian Turner, 62 of Fresno, for the alleged incident while driving on westbound Nees Avenue at Blackstone Avenue around 8 p.m. Saturday. He was charged with a felony —illegally dispersing pepper spray.

“CAIR-SV/CC welcomes the arrest of a suspect in this attack and encourages authorities to conduct a hate crime investigation. These protesters were practicing their First Amendment rights when they were targeted in this disturbing assault,” Fresno-area CAIR deputy director Sukaina Hussain said.

CAIR-SV/CC is the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Sacramento/Central California.

Lt. Rob Beckwith of the Fresno police says the incident does not appear to be a hate crime, meaning it was motivated by the alleged victims’ nationality.

“We don’t have information that (Turner) specifically went to that location with the intent of assaulting these individuals. What we do know is that the subjects in the victim’s vehicle actually initiated the contact with the suspect,” Beckwith said.

Video of the incident, taken by the alleged victims, has been shared on social media. Beckwith said police used that video, but he was unsure if other evidence, such as city cameras monitoring that intersection, was reviewed.

Self-Defense or Crime?

At the corner of Blackstone and Nees, dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters were demonstrating against the week-long war between Israel and Hamas.

A car, turning left on Blackstone, pulled up to Turner’s car. A man asked Turner to honk if he supported Palestine. Turner refused, and a verbal argument occurred.

The video appears to show a Palestinian flag waving from outside one car and near Turner, who had his window rolled down. Turner is seen gesturing, then spraying a substance toward the car. The edge of a door from the first vehicle is briefly seen on camera.

“One of the subjects in the vehicle exited the victim’s vehicle and began approaching the suspect’s vehicle in somewhat of an aggressive manner as that was occurring. The suspect, Mr. Turner, produced pepper spray and discharged the pepper spray at that subject,” Beckwith said.

When the alleged victims retreated back to their vehicles, Turner sprayed them again. While the first spaying could be self-defense, the second time would not be, Beckwith said.

“You had the second dousing, which occurred after those subjects were allowed back into their vehicles and and i.e. no longer an immediate threat or a threat at that point to Mr. Turner,” Beckwith said.

Police are seeking witnesses in the case. They ask witnesses to contact detective Justin Baroni at 559-621-2425.

Turner Remains in Jail

Police arrested Turner at his apartment complex in the 400 block of West Nees Avenue around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. Police acted that quickly, Beckwith said, because of the felony nature of the crime.

“It is an ongoing investigation. He’s a suspect in a felony crime. It was appropriate to take him into custody when they came into contact with him and believe they had probable cause to make the arrest,” Beckwith said.

As of Monday afternoon, Turner remained in jail on $150,000 bail. He faces one count of PC 244 – assault with a caustic chemical.

Turner has not been released on zero-dollar bail because “That charge is not on the list of crimes eligible for zero dollar bail,” Fresno County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Botti said.

The passenger in vehicle, Turner’s wife, did not want to talk about the incident when asked by GV Wire.

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email