Anthony Gardiner, a 34-year-old resident of Pam Coast’s B Section, is facing charges of battery and disorderly conduct after he was caught in at least three videos shoving a child off of his son as the two children were fighting on a public sidewalk Monday afternoon—a fight Gardiner witnessed from the start, never attempted to stop, and may have instigated and encouraged as it unfolded.
The fight took place on the sidewalk of Belle Terre Parkway along Indian Trails Sports Complex and involved two Indian Trails Middle School students—one white, one black: during the fight, racial epithets are heard as the white child is egged on to punch the black child in the face. The white child is Gardiner’s son. The children are surrounded by other students and some parents. Remarkably, no one intervenes until Gardiner is seen shoving one of the children off his son, at which point the fight ends and Gardiner draws immediate and loud rebukes from several people.
Videos of the incident have been circulating on social media. Two have been turned into evidence at the Sheriff’s Office and forwarded to the State Attorney’s Office, along with a charging affidavit for Gardiner, a landscaper in town. It’ll be up to the State Attorney to decide whether to formalize the charges.
The incident took place Monday but gained broader attention through the web Tuesday, the same day that a 39-year-old man was found guilty of two counts of battery for punching a 16-year-old girl at Epic Theater in 2016, an incident similarly caught on video. In that case, there was just one video, more brief and less distinct in its detail, shot in dark light at night. The man had faced a felony child abuse charge that the jury lowered to simple battery. He has yet to be sentenced, and may face some jail time.
The incident involving the two Indian Trails Middle School students took place after school Monday around 2 p.m. and drew the attention of the school’s resource deputy and other law enforcement. A witness told one of the deputies that Gardiner “instigated the fight between the boys,” according to Gardiner’s charging affidavit. The two students had fought after school on March 8, when one child “got the better” of Gardiner’s son, according to the report. The school resource deputy determined that Gardiner’s son had been the aggressor Monday. That would be an issue school authorities would have to deal with.
But after the incident, a witness provided the deputy with a written statement “advising she observed a white male adult yelling at [the other child] in what appeared to be him [Gardiner] staging a fight for his son.” The witness states the two boys dropped their backpacks and began fighting. “During the fight it seems [one child] was getting the upper hand on [Gardiner’s son], and the Father (Anthony Gardiner) pushed [the boy off his son]. At that point she states several other parents surrounded Anthony to keep him away from [the child].”
On Tuesday, the school resource deputy and Justin Cronk, dean of students at Indian Trails, spoke with both boys. One of them said he’d been done with the incident after they had first fought, but claimed Gardiner’s son wanted to continue the matter. “He was walking to the park to catch his ride home when a grown man started yelling at him to fight his son,” according to the report. He said Gardiner’s son “walked up to him, dropped his backpack, and the fight began”. During the fight he said he was on top, and the grown man pushed him off and started making threats that he had a knife and was a police officer.
“Wait before my dad gets here,” one of the boys is heard saying in one of the videos.
“Fight him one on one right now, let’s go,” a man’s voice is heard saying. It’s not clear if it’s Gardiner’s. He is standing within a few feet of the boys, his arms crossed. “Swing at him. Start swinging at him.”
“We’ll settle this right now. We ain’t no bitches,” a voice says.
As Gardiner stands within a foot or two of the two boys, who by then are in fighting stance, one boy pushes Gardiner’s son in the chest, Gardiner’s son puts up his fists, then the two are in a clutch as Gardiner looks on. His son seems to sustain several punches or strikes. “Get him Dom, in the face Dom,” Gardiner yells, using a nickname for his son. “Hit that nigger,” a younger voice is heard saying. One voice is heard yelling in the distance, “hey, hey, hey!” in an attempt to verbally stop the fight. One of the boys appears to have the better of Gardiner’s son as they get nearer the edge of the sidewalk, prompting Gardiner to intervene and push him off.
Immediately children and adults rush closer and yell at Gardiner, themselves using obscenities at that point to admonish him. “You’re a parent,” a woman yells at him. Streams of obscenities follow.
“Hey, hey, you ain’t get the text my son got, you ain’t get the text my son got,” Gardiner yells back.
During the commotion the other child’s father arrives (shirtless) and calmly walks up to Gardiner, who doubles back and walks to meet the man. But neither of them is confrontational. Gardiner asks the man why the man’s son is sending text messages. There are a lot of arm gestures and finger-pointing, but the two men exchange statements more than arguments, and the other man before the end of the videos points to the people filming and tells Gardiner that it’s all live, all on social media. Then the two walk away, each with his son.
Contacted at the phone number recorded as his on the sheriff’s report, Gardiner’s girlfriend or wife answered, saying she was advising him against speaking with media for now, pending the outcome of the case. Asked about any texts, she said her son had received threatening ones from the other boy, and added that Gardiner intervened only because he was “trying to slow up the fight” before anyone got hurt.
Sheriff Rick Staly saw it differently. “Most parents would do everything within their power to prevent any harm coming to their child,” he was quoted as saying in a release his office issued today. “But this is a parent who actively encouraged violence between his son and
another child to solve a problem. Then, took it another step further and began fighting one of the kids himself. This is not how you teach your children problem solving skills.”