KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- “Who did you vote for?” It’s a political question that sparked an attack, as teens targeted a man who was just waiting at a bus stop near the Country Club Plaza.
The victim said the teens didn't like his response, so they started throwing punches.
The attack happened this weekend at a bus stop near J.C. Nichols Parkway and Ward Parkway, which is just a stone’s throw away from a corner of Plaza.
“I was on the Plaza and I thought it was safe, you know?” said victim Robert Barrentine, “The Plaza is usually a safe spot. I haven’t had any problems down there before.”
Barrentine said he wasn't wearing anything that displayed his political affiliation. Yet for some reason, this group of six teens picked him out of the people waiting for the bus and got in his face.
“It was only one guy that was the main instigator,” Barrentine recalled. “He came right up to me and said, ‘Who did you vote for?’”
Barrentine's response: “‘I didn't vote for anybody,’ because I didn’t,” he said.
But apparently that was the wrong answer.
“I just automatically got into defensive mode,” he said, “because I knew what was coming.”
He said the teens, both girls and guys, started punching and kicking him – sending him to the hospital with bumps, bruises and soreness.
“It was a little bit scary,” he said, “because you don’t ever know what’s going to happen in an act of violence. Somebody could’ve had a knife or whatever, some weapon or something.”
He said another person waiting for the bus called police. Soon KCPD officers arrived to chase down the teens, who Barrentine thinks targeted him because he's white.
“I believe it`s a hate crime,” he said. “That`s all I could think of. I mean, I didn't know anybody. There was no other reason why. I mean it has to do with Trump and the election.”
Political attack or not, it's the latest in a string of crimes near the Plaza in the past few months, where a group of teens reportedly hurts or robs random people.
“I'm concerned, wanting to make sure we're safe, and people are safe when they come down here,” said Charla Hecker, who often shops with her three children.
Corrie Jones, another mother, agreed she is extra alert when shopping alone or with her kids.
“I just feel like being a lady walking around the Plaza, you just have to be extra cautious sometimes,” Jones said, “especially around the holiday season. But it`s not going to discourage me from shopping on the Plaza.”
Jones added, “We just have to take responsibility for our children and make sure that they’re making good decisions when they’re not with us.”
As for Barrentine, he still plans to shop at the Plaza too. But he will watch his back, as he offers some advice to the teens' parents.
“Just invest more in your children,” he said. “Be concerned with their future because people who practice this kind of stuff don’t have a future to look forward to…”
Police were able to catch one person who allegedly beat up Barrentine. He is a 15-year-old boy who has been arrested in the past for armed robbery and another assault.
In a statement, Meredith Keeler, the general manager of the Country Club Plaza, said:
"While this incident did not occur on the Plaza, we are careful to monitor activity in the immediate area and work closely with the KCPD to ensure that we are continually providing a safe and secure environment for our retailers and our customers."