OKALOOSA ISLAND, Fla. (WKRG) — A man visiting from Texas was arrested for an alleged hate crime in Okaloosa County.
Deputies say beachgoers witnessed 54-year-old Wade Anton in an argument with an Asian family at the park. Anton reportedly told the family to “go back where they came from” and made racial slurs.
The family told the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) that Anton went around the park railing and started punching one man in the face. The man tells OCSO he pulled a gun to protect himself and the scene de-escalated.
Anton told deputies the argument stemmed from the woman’s children petting his dogs and ignored him when he asked them to stop.
University of West Florida Criminology Professor Richard Hough says hate crimes are rare but they do happen.
“It is certainly not the most frequent of crimes, but it is really difficult for the community when it does happen because it isn’t just I’m robbing you as an individual but I’m hurting you because of a characteristic,” Hough said.
Hough believes recent hostility in the political sphere regarding coronavirus and other issues has caused some to lash out in hatred.
“We’ve seen an increase,” Hough said. “When you have some of the walls of civility crumble because people aren’t taking responsibility, including specifically politicians to reinforce civility at all times, it allows people who might be predisposed to acting on there personal hatreds to do that.”
Anton is charged with hate-crime related battery.