3 men charged with pepper-spraying boys in hate crime

Left to right: John Schmidt, Peter Afentakis and Corey Knous. Pinellas County Jail booking photos

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (WFLA) — Three Pinellas County men are accused of committing a disturbing hate crime against a group of boys who were riding their bikes to football practice. Police say the men used a racial insult against the boys and one of the men pepper sprayed the boys in their faces.

Investigators say Peter Afentakis, Corey Knous and John Schmidt were driving southbound in a white colored Infiniti on 62nd Street in the 6300 block in Pinellas Park just after 3 p.m. on Thursday.

Schmidt was in the front passenger seat of the vehicle and saw two African-American boys and a Caucasian boy riding their bikes on the sidewalk. He told Afentakis and Knous about the boys. Afentakis was driving the Infiniti and Knous was a rear passenger.

Investigators say Schmidt began using a racial insult directed at the three juvenile males by saying “Look it’s a pack of (explicit).” Schmidt then told the driver to stop the vehicle.

The vehicle and the boys were at a red light at the intersection of 2nd Street and 62nd Ave.

Schmidt wrapped a t-shirt around his head to disguise himself and then rolled his window down and began shouting racial slurs directed at the boys, according to police. After a brief verbal argument between the groups, police say Schmidt got out of the car and pepper sprayed all three victims in their faces and torsos while again using racial slurs directed at them.

After the boys were sprayed, Schmidt got back into car and the men left the scene.

Several officers responded to the scene while other officers patrolled the area. A vehicle matching the description of the Infiniti was located in front of Schmidt’s residence on 67th Avenue.

Police arrested the three suspects who were at Schmidt’s residence. Afentakis and Knous were charged with principle to child abuse and Schmidt was charged with three counts of child abuse.

All charges will be submitted to the State Attorney’s Office with a Hate Crime enhancement due to the racial statements being made at the time of the criminal act.

The boys were treated at the scene for their exposure to the pepper spray and released to their parents. All three boys told police they had no prior contact with the suspects and were heading to football practice at a nearby school when the incident occurred.

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