CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A story on an assault at a Charlotte LGBT bar on Sunday has stirred local social media conversation and criticism from those who say they know the assailant. Police officials have also responded to criticism regarding a delayed response time to the incident.
Lucas Dylan Wilhelmson, 21, of Holly Springs, N.C., was arrested early Sunday morning and charged with simple assault and communicating threats after repeatedly assaulting The Bar at 316 owner Jeff Edwards, according to a police report and eyewitnesses.
A release from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, sent to media on Monday, notes that Wilhelmson, “entered the bar and began yelling at patrons and causing a disturbance. The owner of the bar stated that he approached the suspect and asked him to leave. As the two of them walked to the front door, the owner asked Mr. Wilhelmson if he needed a cab ride home since he appeared to have been intoxicated. At this time Mr. Wilhelmson began to assault the owner striking him several times with an open hand and communicating threats.”
Police said Monday that the investigation is still ongoing and additional charges pending.
On Sunday afternoon, Kolby Brinkley, bar manager and Edwards’ partner, and eyewitness Tyler Barker related accounts similar to the original police report. Barker said Wilhelmson was using anti-gay slurs and Brinkley said he was ranting about the recent Supreme Court decision on marriage equality.
Shortly after qnotes published our story on Sunday afternoon, we were reached by a Wilhelmson family friend. JoJo Hammond, a lesbian who lives in Apex, N.C., and who said Wilhelmson’s father plays in her band, told qnotes she didn’t believe the incident was motivated by bias. Another acquaintance, Justin Hansil, also spoke with qnotes late Sunday evening. He said he was with Wilhelmson that night and confirmed that Wilhelmson had been involved in confrontations, but thought the story had been reported inaccurately.
On Monday and Tuesday, conversation stirred locally online — on Facebook and in the comments section at qnotes — with various individuals claiming they were also present the night of the incident, disputing other eyewitness accounts.
“[H]e got physical and he should’ve never done that but it was never about gay rights,” Ben Gann, who claimed he was Wilhelmson at the bar, said on Facebook. “Why would he be with me but beat up another gay man because he is gay?”
The newspaper’s story has also received criticism.
“To all of those in the QC. This article is far from the truth. Don’t believe everything you read,” Anthony Decker said on Facebook. “This article was clearly written to gain views and stir up controversy in our city! I’ve lost my respect for QNotes, and will no longer support you.. Know your facts!! What people tell you at 2am are drunkin words and exaggeration. Get it together editor. You should know better!”
Requests to speak with other eyewitnesses have gone unanswered.
Wilson Carter, who originally brought this writer’s attention to Gann’s comments and whom Hammond told qnotes on Sunday had been with Wilhelmson the night of the incident, had not responded to requests for comment after the newspaper first reached out to him via phone and Facebook on Sunday.
After a follow-up Wednesday morning, Carter said, “I have nothing to say to you.”
Decker, too, has not responded to requests for comment, and public messages inviting others disputing the incident to contact the newspaper have not resulted in new interviews.
Hammond, who said she was in touch with the Wilhelmson family over the weekend and Monday, told qnotes they were advised not to speak to media until after retaining an attorney. Requests to speak to Wilhelmson, his father or an attorney have not been returned.
Police delayed by disturbance
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has also been criticized for what some saw as a delayed response time to the incident.
Both Brinkley and Barker said it took multiple phone calls and at least 30 minutes for police to arrive at the bar early Sunday morning.
Information on the delay wasn’t available when qnotes first published its story, though it had reached out to CMPD spokespeople. Later that evening, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Public Affairs Coordinator Rob Tufano told qnotes the delayed response time was caused by a large disturbance near The Bar at 316.
“Officers were on the scene of a large disturbance involving more than 500 people on Randolph Road during the time of the assault,” Tufano said in a statement Sunday. “Once officers cleared the scene on Randolph Road they responded to 316 Rensselaer Avenue and arrested the individual involved in the assault.”
CMPD expanded on the disturbance in their Monday release.
“On Sunday, June 28, 2015, at 1:51 a.m., the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s 911 communications center received a call in reference to a physical assault that was occurring inside a bar in the 300 block of Rensselaer Avenue, which is located in the Providence Division,” CMPD said. “At the time of the call for service, officers from the Providence Division along with three surrounding divisions were on scene in the 1900 block of Randolph Road investigating a report of an illegal nightclub with more than 1,000 people inside. Two officers from the Steele Creek Division were dispatched at 1:59 a.m. to the assault call for service on Rensselaer Avenue.”