A Fort Lauderdale man grabbed the steering wheel of the car his girlfriend was driving and struck a bicyclist because the rider was black, a Broward Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said Thursday.
Kenneth Frank Greer, 43, was charged with aggravated battery, but he faces stiffer penalties if convicted because the incident has been classified as a hate crime.
About 11 a.m. Wednesday Greer and his girlfriend were driving east in the 800 block of Hammondville Road in Pompano Beach as Corey Nesmith, 25, was crossing the street.
"They were doing about 55, 50 mph and then the car just ran right into me," Nesmith said Thursday. "That's it. Out of nowhere. Just hit me.
"I was dazed," he said. "I saw [the man] coming to pick up his hubcap and side-view mirror so I grabbed him because I thought he was going to leave me, and I held him there until the police came."
Nesmith had no idea he was targeted because he was black. Neither did deputies until Greer got back to the police station and unleashed a string of racial slurs and equated black people with "crack dealers," Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright said.
"It doesn't surprise me," Coleman-Wright said. "Bigotry and prejudice have been in our country for centuries. ... Am I disappointed? Yes. But it doesn't surprise me at all, and it's not going away any time soon."
Nesmith, who escaped with scrapes and bruises, said he wasn't angry about what happened.
"I don't hate nobody," he said. "I'm not mad at anybody. They got him. It doesn't matter."
Nesmith's mother, Gussie Williams, was not so forgiving.
"They need to keep him [in jail] for life or how long he can stay in there because he doesn't need to be out here in society being like that," she said. "He's got to deal with life out here in society. If he can't deal with that, he needs to be elsewhere."