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DISPUTE LEADS TO HATE CRIME CHARGES FIRE CHIEF, VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER ACCUSED OF RACIAL SLURS AGAINST BLACK FISHERMAN.
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DISPUTE LEADS TO HATE CRIME CHARGES FIRE CHIEF, VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER ACCUSED OF RACIAL SLURS AGAINST BLACK FISHERMAN.

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A fire chief and a volunteer firefighter were charged Friday with disorderly conduct as a hate crime for allegedly using racial slurs against a black man who was fishing in the Oconomowoc River.

North Lake Fire Chief Terry Stapleton also was charged with obstruction, for allegedly providing misinformation to sheriff's investigators, and firefighter Mark Weber was charged with felony reckless use of a weapon, Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher said.

The men, both white, had defended their actions in the Tuesday confrontation with fisherman Mark Bratton, 41, of Milwaukee, in the town of Merton.

Bratton said the two men used a racial slur, pointed a handgun at him and threatened him with a German shepherd as they told him to leave. He was with his sister and nephew when it happened.

Stapleton and Weber said Thursday that Bratton fueled the confrontation by spitting on Weber and his truck and calling him a "(expletive) cracker" and "white trash," although Bratton denied using the terms and spitting on Weber.

The chief said in an interview Thursday on Milwaukee television station WTMJ that he brought out his German shepherd, Major, because "colored people don't like dogs."

Bratton said the incident left him afraid to return to the area where he has fished for the past few years.

In announcing the charges, Bucher said many North Lake area residents were "mortified" by the allegations, which he said don't reflect the rest of the volunteer fire department.

"The behavior is repulsive and needs to be quickly and soundly rejected," Bucher said.

Stapleton said the confrontation started when Weber had to stop his truck as Bratton crossed the highway. Weber admitted shouting foul language at Bratton and said he was surprised when Bratton came toward his truck.

Stapleton said he was taking a ride with his dog when he noticed Weber pointing a finger at the fisherman, and he decided to bring his dog to end the altercation.

The two men allegedly backed away when a woman who was walking her dog came upon them.

Weber denied pointing a gun at Bratton, but was charged with reckless use of a weapon.

"As far as the racial slurs, it's a two-way street, and spitting at me was crossing the line," Weber said.

Town of Merton Board Chairman Dick Morris did not immediately return a call to his home Friday seeking comment.

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