Charles McMillon is a 38-year-old Black man from Tallahassee, Florida, who was returning a U-Haul truck on August 27 with his friend and 10-year-old son when the group suddenly came under fire by the armed white couple that owned the strip mall they were in.
McMillon’s attorney, Charles Gee, said that the three were almost a victim of “vigilante violence” when Wallace and Beverly Fountain, 77 and 72, fired their weapons without warning.
The Fountains were arrested and charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill, according to a police affidavit. They have claimed not to have even realized the three men were Black; they were only defending their property from what they believed were thieves, they told the Tallahassee Democrat.
Here’s what you need to know:
McMillon, His 10-Year-Old Son & Friend Kendrik Clemons Were Returning a U-Haul to the Fountain Plaza Shopping Center When the Fountains Fired on Them
McMillon, his son and friend Kendrik Clemons were moving office furniture from one space to another on August 27, with Clemons driving McMillon’s pickup behind the U-Haul, Gee told Heavy.
They brought the truck to a drop-off point at the Fountain Shopping Plaza in Tallahassee, and McMillon got out, inspected the truck and dropped the keys in the drop box. After that, the three got into McMillon’s pickup and prepared to leave, but McMillon then remembered he needed to check the vehicle in and clock the mileage on his cellphone, according to Gee.
There was another U-Haul truck in the lot that they believed had been left running, Gee said.
As McMillon started clocking the mileage, shots rang out, according to Gee, and McMillon turned to see that the Fountains were “camped out” in the other U-Haul vehicle and “brandishing weapons.”
The Fountains then began “shouting commands” at McMillon and company, and McMillon had everyone duck their heads low and peeled out of the lot. More shots followed, according to Gee.
“He didn’t know what kind of vigilante justice was headed their way,” Gee said.
During the incident, there was a police car nearby the shopping plaza parking lot, according to Gee. The officer initially followed McMillon’s pickup out of the parking lot, after hearing the shots, then went back to the Fountains.
The Fountains Were Arrested at the Scene & the Arresting Officer’s Affidavit Confirmed McMillon’s Account
The Tallahassee police officer’s arrest affidavit lines up closely with McMillon’s account of the encounter that evening. In the affidavit, the officer said that he was parked in front of the plaza’s Ace Hardware, monitoring an “uptick in violent crime” in the area. The officer heard the shots and saw McMillon, his son and Clemons drive off, “motioning with their hands” toward where the Fountains were firing from.
The officer took a tactical position by his vehicle and trained his weapon on the Fountains, who, he said, were brandishing handguns. Beverly told the officer that she thought the other men were stealing fuel and, according to the affidavit, Wallace didn’t immediately hear his commands.
The Fountains eventually put their guns down and laid on the ground, until more police arrived and they were placed under arrest, according to the officer.
According to the affidavit, Beverly, who said she owned the strip mall containing the U-Haul drop-off, believed that people were cutting fuel lines to the trucks and siphoning gasoline. She told the officer that she and her husband decided to surveil the lot and try to catch whoever was doing it, according to the affidavit.
According to the affidavit, Beverly told the officer that she and her husband heard McMillon and the other two talking when they pulled into the lot and believed they were going to steal gasoline. She and her husband decided to “make some noise” and scare them off, by firing their guns into the air, according to the affidavit.
Wallace claimed that his wife told him she heard people siphoning gasoline before they fired their weapons. He also claimed that he never pointed his gun at McMillon or the others, according to the affidavit.
Police found a .410 shotgun, two additional 9mm pistol magazines and 19 boxes of 9mm ammunition in the couple’s U-Haul truck, according to the affidavit. Beverly was carrying a .357 Magnum pistol with three rounds spent and carrying a .22 Magnum derringer pistol in her front pocket; Wallace had a Glock 19 handgun.
The Wallaces were both arrested and charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill.
The Wallaces Told the Tallahassee Democrat That They Didn’t Know the 3 Men Were Black, While Clemons Connected the Shooting to What Black Lives Matter Demonstrations Have Been Protesting
Florida couple opens fire with .357 Magnum and Glock 19 on black man, his friend and 10-year-old son who were returning @uhaul van in strip mall parking lot #BecauseFlorida: https://t.co/y835yqRPF7 pic.twitter.com/7WJSDLvYEw
— Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) September 2, 2020
The Fountains admitted to firing their weapons during the incident, according to the police affidavit.
In an interview with the Tallahassee Democrat on the day of her first court appearance, Beverly, however, insisted that the shooting had nothing to do with race.
“Were they Black?” she said. “We weren’t going off on that at all. You’ve got vandalism and theft going on at your property. Trying to protect your property — that’s the only issue.”
Beverly also told the Democrat, “The whole country has gone to hell with all these riots” and, “One incident was blown out of proportion.”
Gee and Clemons, however, were highly disturbed by the incident, connecting it to the motivation behind the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.
“I would say that the current climate of race relations in this country has reached this fever pitch and everybody feels as if they’re drawing a line in the sand, and I think the Fountains felt like they were drawing a line in the sand as well,” Gee told Heavy. “In my personal opinion, it sounds like [Beverly] was already p***** off about what she was seeing in the country with the protests and asking for equal rights and justice for people of color. She’s seeing it one way and I’m seeing it another.”
“They could have been next, though,” he added. “They’re still victims, but they could have been victims to vigilante justice. We saw it with Ahmaud Arbery and we saw it with Trayvon [Martin] in our home state. The only difference is these guys were lucky enough to escape it.”
“We’re hopeful now more than ever that this country finally sees that Black lives do matter,” Clemons told the Democrat. “This isn’t just a movement. This is a way of life for millions of minorities, a way of life in which we are targeted by police, the justice system and civilians all because we ‘fit the description.’”
Clemons & McMillon Both Told Police They Feared for Their Lives & They Are Pursuing a Lawsuit Against the Fountains
The Tallahassee police affidavit described McMillon’s 10-year-old son as a “victim as well,” and “extremely distraught” over the shooting incident and needing to be “consoled by his father.”
Gee told Heavy this week that the family is preparing to sue the Fountains. “We are exploring every option, every remedy available,” he said, adding that the incident was traumatic to both McMillons and Clemens.
He also expressed doubt as to the Fountains’ story.
“I can’t get into the mind of the Fountains and tell you what they were thinking that night,” he said. “All I can do is go off the facts. I looked at their artillery and it doesn’t seem like somebody just defending property.”
Heavy tried to reach the Fountains by phone and email, but did not immediately hear back.