A Florida man is facing charges after reportedly harassing a group of international students in a McDonald’s parking lot in St. Augustine early Wednesday, yelling at them to “get out of my country.”
John Jay Smith, 60, is said to have approached the five men and asked them “Are you American boys?” according to a report from The Washington Post. When the group, who were standing near their cars and eating at the time, did not answer, Smith reportedly flashed his pocket knife and said “Get the f*ck out of my country!” and “You don’t deserve American food!”
As the men tried to get into their cars and leave, Smith allegedly brandished a stun gun and attempted to stun one of them before they were able to get away and call the police.
The deputy who responded to the call reported that Smith smelled of alcohol and slurred his words, according to NBC Los Angeles. During his arrest, Smith made a “spontaneous utterance” that “they killed my son.” Smith said his son was a U.S. Marine who died in combat in Afghanistan. Smith also initially claimed that the group had been making a ruckus and pulled a gun on him, but made no mention of a gun when making his official statement.
Smith was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, burglary with assault, and armed trespassing, according to The Post. He is out on an $8,500 bond.
The men Smith allegedly harassed were Muslim students from Egypt who had only been in the U.S. for seven to 10 months before the incident. Prosecutors will decide if Smith will be charged with a hate crime.
Omar Abdelmoaty, one of the students, told The Post that he and his friends have found it difficult to sleep and carry on with everyday life following their encounter with Smith, and said they are living in a “state of fear.”
“This is the land of the free, so we didn’t think one day that we would encounter something like this,” he said.
[Photo: St. John’s County Sheriff’s Office]