ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A St. Petersburg man has been charged with a hate crime after police say he yelled racial slurs and fired an air rifle at a group of people.
Last week, the state attorney filed documents stating he is pursuing hate crime charges against Joshua Rousseau.
Rousseau has been charged with five counts of aggravated assault and one count of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer stemming from a February 20 confrontation at Clam Bayou Nature Preserve.
“Hate crimes are not OK,” said Renita Skelton. “Racial slurs are not OK.”
Skelton says she and a group of friends were painting at the park on that Saturday when, for unknown reasons, Rousseau aggressively approached them, threatened them with his air rifle while hurling several racial slurs.
“What came over me was go get my baby,” said Skelton. “My initial reaction, go get your child, cause my daughter was also out here.”
Police say the confrontation continued as Rousseau went aboard his boat. That’s when he started firing shots from a scope mount air rifle.
Police say Rousseau also fired several shots at a responding Sgt.
Although memories of that day are painful to replay, Skelton is sharing her experience as a reminder of just how harmful some words can be.
“Whatever your problem is your problem. Whatever your feelings is, that’s your feelings, we can’t do nothing about that,” said Skelton. “However, what we can do is stand up for ourselves and let you know that what you’re doing, that’s not OK.”
Rousseau is due in court for arraignment next month.