GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man angry over his neighbors’ parking habits sprayed fire from a commercial flamethrower toward a car with three teenagers inside, police said. No one was hurt.
Andre Abrams, 57, of Gainesville is facing three counts of felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intending to kill, according to court records. He posted a $15,000 bond last week and is awaiting a decision whether prosecutors will formally file criminal charges.
The mother of one of the teens, Ashley Gainey, said Abrams frequently sprayed the flamethrower to scare off guests at her home. Gainey’s daughter, Nate’talya Baker, 16, fled the car with her friends as Abrams continued to spray flames toward them, police said.
“When he shoots it, it lights the whole road up,” Gainey said. “It’s like it’s daylight outside. He’ll do it in the middle of the night.”
In his arrest report, police identified the weapon in the Nov. 30 incident as an XM42 Lite Flamethrower, which shoots flames up to 20 feet and is manufactured by X Products LLC of Vancouver, Washington. It sells for about $900 online.
“You’ve probably wondered if you can own a flamethrower, and guess what? You can!” the company said in a promotional video last year. “No permits or licenses needed.” It said the devices are legal to buy and own in every state except Maryland or California.
The company — which also sells T-shirts identifying the wearer as a “little terrorist” — requires buyers to accept a liability waiver and affirm they were never convicted of a felony, domestic abuse or arson. Abrams was twice convicted of misdemeanor domestic battery after arrests in 2002 and 2004.
It wasn’t clear whether police had seized the flamethrower.
Abrams said in a brief phone interview that he could not discuss the case without consulting an attorney over fear of being evicted from his home by the local housing authority. Alachua County Circuit Judge Meshon T. Rawls formally approved his request for a public defender, according to court records filed Tuesday.
In the U.S., there are no federal laws regulating the sale of flamethrowers, which are not considered firearms. A congressman in New York introduced a restrictive bill he called “Flamethrowers? Really?” in 2019 but the measure didn’t pass. Florida outlaws the manufacture or sale of shotgun shells called “dragon’s breath” that mimic flamethrowers by shooting a flame or fireball.
Abrams acknowledged that the incident stemmed from a long-running dispute over parking with a neighboring family. Police said he admitted shooting the flamethrower toward the vehicle but denied targeting the teens.
“This family, how could I say this — the worst thing that could ever happen to a neighborhood,” Abrams said. “They’ve had issues with other residents, and it needs to be brought to light.”
The driver of the parked car, Amari Singleton, told police she and her two passengers saw Abrams approach them with the flamethrower and begin spraying fire. Police said flames came within five feet of the vehicle as they escaped using the passenger’s side door.
“You better not burn up my car,” Singleton said, according to police.
Gainey, the mother of one of the teens, said she confronted him during the incident.
“He shot it toward them,” she said. “When I got to the door, he was still shooting it. I asked him, ‘What is your effin’ problem?’”