Cops say Richard Spencer supporter William Fears IV choked girlfriend days before Florida shooting

As William Fears, IV, attended Richard Spencer’s poorly received speaking engagement at the University of Florida in October, he was wanted elsewhere.

Law enforcement officials in the Houston area were searching for Fears based on accusations that he hit and choked his then-girlfriend to the point that she gagged and vomited in her mouth earlier that month.

The cases in Florida and Texas would mark the latest chapters in Fears’ ongoing issues with the criminal justice system.

Two days after his October 19 arrest in Gainesville, Florida, on attempted murder charges, Judge Maria Jackson in Harris County, Texas, issued a warrant for the arrest of Fears.

At the time, Fears, his brother Colton Fears, both of Pasadena, Texas, and a friend, Tyler Tenbrink, of Richmond, Texas, were in a jail in Alachua County, Florida.

The Texas case against 30-year-old William Fears stems from an October 7 incident at his then-girlfriend’s home.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in Harris County criminal court, Fears confronted a woman on October 7 at her home in Spring, Texas, northwest of Houston. Fears accused the woman of not being faithful in their relationship and demanded to see her cellphone.

Fears then slapped the woman with an open hand and pulled her to the ground as she tried to get away from him, sheriff’s deputies said.

Deputies said Fears then pinned the woman to the ground by straddling her with his knees on her arms.

Fears then squeezed the woman’s neck, making it hard to breath and, eventually choking her to the point where she gagged and vomited in her mouth, deputies said.

The woman filed for and was granted a protective order keeping Fears at least 200 feet from her at all times.

Fears was already in a Florida jail after Spencer’s speech by the time the judge in Texas issued the warrant for his arrest.

The Fears brothers and Tenbrink were in a silver Jeep just blocks from where Spencer spoke when they allegedly provoked an argument with a group of protestors.

According to an Alachua County Sheriff’s Office report, Tenbrink got out of the car with a gun and the Fears brothers started yelling “I’m going to fucking kill you,” “kill them” and “shoot them” at the protestors.

Tenbrink fired a single shot, which struck a nearby business behind the protestors, deputies said.

The three jumped back in the car along with a fourth person, who was not charged, and left the scene.

Deputies stopped the Jeep about 20 miles north of Gainesville on Interstate 75 and questioned the men.

One of the victims identified Tenbrink and the Fears brothers as the people who threatened him. Deputies said Tenbrink later admitted to firing the shot.

All three were arrested and held in the Alachua County Jail on $1 million bond.

Two days later, a judge in Houston issued an arrest warrant for William Fears based on his ex-girlfriend’s allegations.

Texas officials didn’t arrest him until December 1, when William Fears was extradited and released on bond on the charges there. He is scheduled for arraignment in Houston on Thursday.

Colton Fears, who has a history of drug and traffic offenses, and Tenbrink, who previously served 30 days in jail for stealing a cellphone, remain in the Alachua County Jail, charged with accessory after the fact to attempted murder, and attempted murder, respectively.

Prosecutors in Florida are seeking to enhance any potential penalty against Tenbrink under Florida’s “10-20-life” law, which mandates harsh sentences for someone using or firing a weapon during the commission of a crime.

The two arrests marked at least the third and fourth times William Fears had been charged with crimes.

Fears was arrested in 2009 near Tyler, Texas, and charged with kidnapping. He later pleaded guilty, although specifics of the case were not immediately available.

Fears also was convicted in Delaware County, Pennsylvania in 2013, for the illegal sale or transfer of firearms. The specifics of that case were not immediately available and it was unclear if Fears spent any time in prison for either offense.

Leading up to Spencer’s speech, the Fears brothers and Tenbrink spoke with reporters outside the Curtis M. Phillips Center. Tenbrink repeatedly told reporters that “oppression” of any kind is just a myth people use to get sympathy. He also said, "If Hitler would've changed his narrative a little bit, he'd have taken over the whole freakin' world."

In the hours before the event was scheduled to begin, Tenbrink appeared agitated while speaking to another Spencer supporter. All those people who were smiling and polite to him, he said, would probably “beat the shit out of us” later.

The Fears brothers have a long history of extremism, and this wasn’t the first time William has urged his fellow racists to kill. He brawled enthusiastically during the deadly protests in Charlottesville, shouting, “Shoot! Fire the first shot of the race war!”

Photo credit: Getty Images/Brian Blanco

Comments, suggestions or tips? Send them to HWeditor@splcenter.org and follow us on Twitter @Hatewatch.