A 42-year-old white man was arrested after allegedly hitting a Black teenager in the face with a bicycle lock in what authorities are calling a racially motivated attack.
Court documents show that James Lee Mouat was charged with one count of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, one count of assault with a dangerous weapon, and one count of ethnic intimidation. According to authorities, he attacked 18-year-old Devin Freelon Jr. at a southeastern Michigan beach on Saturday, and now members of the Monroe, Michigan, community are rallying in support of the teen, who was left with serious injuries.
According to the Associated Press, the alleged assault took place after one group of white people and one group of Black people exchanged words at the Sterling State Park beach, about 40 miles outside of Detroit. Monroe County Sheriff’s Maj. Jeff Kemp told the AP that Mouat retrieved a bicycle lock from his car, approached Freelon, and said a racial slur before hitting the 18-year-old in the face with the lock.
Representatives for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office and the Monroe County Prosecutor's Office didn’t immediately return BuzzFeed News’ request for comment. Mouat was held on a $100,000 bond, and he is set to be arraigned on Tuesday.
Freelon’s family told the Monroe News that he was hospitalized with serious but non-life-threatening injuries and reportedly lost three teeth. A GoFundMe page set up by the 18-year-old’s cousin aims to raise money to help offset medical costs from the attack, saying that Freelon “was taken to two different hospitals in an ambulance...they stitched up his lip but we have to wait to see how his jaw heals to see if surgery is needed.”
Since Saturday, the community has rallied in support of Freelon and spoken out about racism.
Amanda Althouse, one of Freelon’s teachers at Orchard Center High School, organized a protest in support of the teenager on Monday, drawing about 100 people, including classmates, staff members, and school alumni. When Althouse heard about the incident through another teacher, she told BuzzFeed News she reached out directly to Freelon’s family and spoke with the 18-year-old.
“I was shocked when I found out what happened,” Althouse said. “You hear a lot of stories, but it’s not usually your town. I will say that I was surprised to hear that the physical assault had happened, but I’m not surprised to hear about the racial discrimination in the city.”
Freelon, whose teacher described him as “super outgoing, bubbly, and just a very kind soul,” was supposed to graduate high school on Thursday, but he will no longer be able to attend. He’s at home recovering, according to Althouse. The teacher added she FaceTimed him during the protest on Monday, and “there were lots of tears.”
“That was a really powerful moment. I think it just showed how many people support him and are fighting for justice for him, even people he’s never met,” Althouse said.
“His classmates were devastated. I was talking to a student today and she said, ‘When you think about the nice kid in school or the kind kid, that’s Devin. So to picture him going through this experience is awful.’”
Althouse said the incident is a part of a “much bigger conversation” happening across the entire country about racial inequality and hate crimes, and what happened to Freelon has “made it personal for a lot of people in our community.”
The teacher added she wants to see Mouat convicted and serving an "appropriate sentence for what he's done."
“The time to be quiet is long gone. I want the court and the city and the state to take this seriously and to recognize it for what it is and not push it away,” Althouse said. “This was a hate crime. I know that they did label a charge ethnic intimidation, but I don't think that’s enough.”