White Mich. couple charged after gun pulled on Black family
A white couple face criminal charges after one of them was captured on video pulling a handgun on a Black woman and her daughters in a restaurant parking lot in Michigan.
Jillian Wuestenberg, 32, and Eric Wuestenberg, 42, were arrested after Wednesday night’s confrontation and charged Thursday 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.
The Wuestenbergs could not be reached by phone for comment Friday, and it was not clear whether they have attorneys who could comment on the allegations. The Wuestenbergs are next scheduled to appear in court for a probable cause hearing on July 14, the sheriff’s office said in a release.
Cellphone video captured the confrontation outside a Chipotle in Orion Township, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of Detroit. Jillian Wuestenberg can be seen outside her vehicle shouting, “Get the (expletive) 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, from Independence Township, both have concealed pistol licenses. Deputies seized two handguns from them.
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 parking lot. A woman since identified as Jillian Wuestenberg is heard arguing with Hill and her daughters. 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 toward a person who’s recording. She screams at people to get away from her and her vehicle. A woman shouts, “She’s got a gun on me!” and urges people to call the police.
Wuestenberg then lowers the gun, climbs into the passenger seat and the vehicle drives off. The sheriff’s office said the couple drove away and waited for deputies to arrive.
Cooper, the prosecutor, told The Associated Press 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.
The sheriff’s office said in a statement that both parties had called police on each other, and that the Wuestenbergs “claimed to fear for their lives over threatening comments made to them and their vehicle being struck with a hand by the other party.”
“There’s a lot of tension in our society, a lot of tension among folks and people with each other,” Bouchard, the sheriff, said. “I would just say this, we are asking and expect our police — and rightfully so — to deescalate 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 deescalate those moments.”
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 an emailed statement.
Wuestenberg served in the Air Force from 1996 to 2009, according to a story in the student-run Oakland University newspaper that quoted him.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin said in a statement that Wuestenberg also had participated in one of her voluntary advisory boards, on veterans’ issues. She said she removed him from the advisory board Thursday.
Burnett reported from Chicago. Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed.