LAKE PLACID — Highlands County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to 325 Key Largo Drive NE in the Placid Lakes subdivision on Saturday night when homeowner Terrence Arnold Bell, 72, called law enforcement to his home and told the dispatcher he had stopped several young men on all-terrain vehicles and was waiting for the deputies.
Bell may have thought the juveniles riding the vehicles — albeit, illegally on the streets — were going to get in trouble. However, the tables were turned on him because Bell used a gun to threaten them.
Bell has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill — a third-degree felony.
When deputies arrived, Bell told them he stopped the four-wheel drive vehicles that were running up and down his street. According to the arrest record, one of the youth started to walk away from Bell. Bell admitted to a deputy that he warned the kids if they walked away, he would shoot their tires out.
Bell was asked twice by a deputy if he had a concealed gun on his person, which he denied. A second deputy on scene was talking to the young people at the same time and they told a different story. They swore Bell did have a gun on him. After a physical search of his person, a deputy found a .380 Ruger pistol in Bell’s right front pocket.
Deputies questioned the victims — whose ages were 12, 13 and 16. The first victim questioned said between 5-5:30 p.m. he and his friends were riding around the area that included Key Largo Drive NE when they were approached by Bell with something allegedly in his hand that the young man thought might be a short black firearm.
The witness told a deputy that Bell had the gun to his side and allegedly pointed it at the group of boys. The first victim told deputies that Bell pointed the gun to him and said, “If you guys move the ranger, I’ll shoot you and the tires out.”
The boys all said they were in fear for their lives.
According to the report, a deputy spoke with a second victim who said almost the same thing as the first boy. A better description came from this witness as to the identification of the suspect. He described the suspect as having white hair and wearing a yellow navy hat with a baby blue shirt and jeans. The victim told deputies he could see a black gun in the suspect’s hand.
The second victim said the gun was pointed at the ground originally. Bell allegedly drew the gun on the second victim when he made eye contact with the suspect. The victim said Bell yelled, “Get off of the ATVs, or I’ll shoot you and the tires.”
The last victim’s account matched up with the other two boys. When this victim saw the gun, he thought it may have been 9mm or a .380 pistol. This victim provided more details of the suspect.
He said the white man was holding the gun “with his index finger on the chamber and his middle finger was on the trigger and the rest of his fingers were on the handle of the pistol,” the report said.
This young man quoted the suspect nearly verbatim to the other victims, saying he [Bell] would shoot him and the tires.
Bell told deputies he informed the young boys they were driving on public roads and he told deputies he thought he should stop them if they went back again. He held a hand for them to stop and he began to ask them what they were doing riding the recreational vehicles on public roads. The rest of the response has been redacted from the arrest report.
Bell has been released on bond. The only thing on his record at the Clerk of County Court’s website is driving school for a traffic offense in 2014.