US: White couple charged after gun pulled on Black family

The confrontation in a restaurant car park in Michigan had escalated Wednesday night.

    Protesters march on MacArthur Bridge across the Detroit River during a rally in Detroit calling for racial justice [Paul Sancya/The Associated Press]
    Protesters march on MacArthur Bridge across the Detroit River during a rally in Detroit calling for racial justice [Paul Sancya/The Associated Press]

    A white couple in the US has been criminally charged after one of them was captured on video pulling a gun on a Black woman and her daughters in a restaurant car park in Michigan.

    Authorities said Jillian Wuestenberg, 32, and Eric Wuestenberg, 42, were arrested after the Wednesday night confrontation. They were charged with felonious assault, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said in a release. They were later arraigned and are free on a $50,000 personal bond, according to the Oakland County sheriff's office.

    As a condition of the bond they must turn over all firearms, not engage in "assaultive behavior" and not leave Michigan, Sheriff Michael Bouchard said in a statement. 

    Jillian Wuestenberg
    Jillian Wuestenberg was arrested after she pulled a handgun on a Black woman and her daughters in a confrontation in Michigan [The Associated Press]

    Mobile phone video captured the confrontation outside a Chipotle in Orion Township, about 40 miles (64km) northwest of Detroit.

    Jillian Wuestenberg can be seen outside her vehicle, shouting, "Get the f*** away! Get away!" while pointing a handgun. She eventually gets back in her vehicle, which her husband drives away.

    Bouchard told reporters that the couple is from Independence Township and both have concealed pistol licences. Deputies seized two handguns from the couple after they were detained.

    The incident comes amid a movement for racial justice in the US following the police-killing of George Floyd in Minnesota in May that has seen protests across the country. 

    Car park confrontation

    The Detroit News first reported on the three-minute video posted online that shows part of the interaction.

    Takelia Hill, who is Black, told the newspaper that it happened after the white woman bumped into Hill's teenage daughter as they were entering the fast-food restaurant.

    The video footage starts after that in the car park. A woman since identified as Jillian Wuestenberg is heard arguing with Hill and her daughters.

    Eric Wuestenberg
    Eric Wuestenberg was also arrested [The Associated Press]

    Wuestenberg climbs into the vehicle, rolls down the window and says, "White people aren't racist," and, "I care about you," before the vehicle she was in starts to back away. 

    Her husband, who had led his wife to the vehicle, turns to the camera and asks, "Who ... do you think you guys are?" using an expletive.

    Then, as someone is behind the vehicle, Jillian Wuestenberg jumps out and points a handgun in the direction of the person, who also appears to be recording the interaction. She screams at people to get away from her and her vehicle.

    A woman is heard shouting, "She's got a gun on me!" and urges someone in the car park to call the police. 

    Wuestenberg then lowers the gun, climbs into the passenger seat and the vehicle drives off. 

    'Tension in our society'

    Cooper, the prosecutor, told The Associated Press news agency that her office viewed the available video before filing charges.

    "It is an unfortunate set of circumstances that tempers run high over, basically, not much of an incident," she said of what led to the confrontation.

    Meanwhile, Bouchard, the sheriff, said, "There's a lot of tension in our society, a lot of tension among folks and people with each other".

    "I would just say this, we are asking and expect our police - and rightfully so - to de-escalate every situation they possibly can, and we should be doing that. But I would say that needs to happen with us individually in our own lives and situations, that we interact with each other and de-escalate those moments," he added. 

    After the video surfaced, Eric Wuestenberg was fired from his job at Oakland University near Detroit, a spokesman said. He worked as a veterans support services coordinator, according to a university website.

    "We have seen the video and we deem his behavior unacceptable," the university said in a statement. "The employee has been notified that his employment has been terminated by the university."

    Democratic US Representative Elissa Slotkin said in a statement that Eric Wuestenberg also had participated in one of her voluntary advisory boards, on veterans' issues. She said the conduct she saw in the video "is beyond the pale of acceptable behavior" and that she removed him from the advisory board Thursday. 

    SOURCE: News agencies