CHARLOTTE — A brutal early morning fight and stabbing at Uptown’s Hartigan’s Irish Pub in early December left one woman dead, another jailed on murder charges and a community left scrambling for answers.
Police say a fight on Dec. 4 between a group of women at the iconic gay and lesbian restaurant and bar began in the establishment’s bathroom. It continued outside where the victim, 30-year-old Antoinette Latoya Baker, was stabbed with a broken beer bottle in the neck and abdomen. Baker was later transported to Carolinas Medical Center where she died.
The suspect, 32-year-old Katie Nicole Robinson, was arrested and charged with murder later that day. As of press time she remained without bond in the Mecklenburg County jail.
Robinson has several prior arrests, including a June 11 arrest for breaking and entering, and damage and injury to real and personal property. She was also arrested on July 8 for communicating threats, harassing phone calls and injury to personal property. She was again arrested Aug. 6 for assault and injury to personal property.
Police have not released more information about what triggered the fight and an investigation is still ongoing. In the absence of an official timeline of events, rumors began to swirl around the community.
Bar: We did all we could
Both Hartigan’s and police have come under scrutiny for allegations that they prevented a first-responder and another customer, who identified herself as a nurse, from assisting Baker.
The allegations were made by the first responder on WCNC-TV; she asked the station not to reveal her identity.
“I’m holding her, trying to put pressure on her wounds and stuff, and I’m snatched up by one of the owners of the bar,” the woman said. “I’m like, ‘I’m a first-responder. She needs help, let me help her.’ And she said, ‘I’m the owner of the bar. Don’t touch her. Police have been called.’”
Similar statements were made anonymously to qnotes the evening following the fatal incident.
The owners of Hartigan’s are denying the charges and said they did everything they could to assist Baker.
“In response to the statement made anonymously by a person claiming to be a first responder that a Hartigan’s owner kept her from rendering assistance, it simply is not true,” a Dec. 6 statement from Hartigan’s Irish Pub read. “Her assertions only serve to inflame what is already a tragic and painful event.”
The bar’s owners added, “One of the staff had summoned the police prior to the stabbing, so officers were on the scene almost immediately. While officers were taking control of the situation, one of the owners was assisting the police officers and another was on the phone with the medics getting instruction.”
The business also sent their condolences to Baker’s family.
“The owners and staff of Hartigan’s Irish Pub are still in shock after the tragic and senseless event that took place Sunday,” the company statement said. “They send their condolences to the friends and family of Ms. Baker and join in their grief.”
They added, “We understand the investigation is continuing and we are cooperating in any way that we can. If anyone has additional information that will assist the investigation please contact the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department.”
The full statement from Hartigan’s appears at the bottom of this story.
Family members have also alleged misconduct by the bar and told The Charlotte Observer that police also prevented the unidentified first responder from helping.
Another woman, Jackie Duncan, who says she is a nurse, also said she wasn’t allowed to help, according to FOX Charlotte. Duncan also says police did not do enough to help Baker.
Police have denied the accusations. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Capt. Jeff Estes heads the Central police division, an area that includes Hartigan’s. He told The Observer that his officers did assist Baker.
“Everything that we are trained to do, we did,” he said.
Despite the allegations of misconduct, the local LGBT community has rallied behind both Hartigan’s Pub and Baker’s family and children.
Community members have spoken out with positive messages for the family on Facebook and several people are planning on collecting donations for the family.
In the face of the tragedy and controversy, community members said it was important to support one of the city’s few gay-owned nightlife and dining establishments.
Bar regulars and others showed up for Hartigan’s reopening four days after the incident.
“I think it’s tragic what happened here,” said Dan Mauney, who encouraged attendees of his popular Takeover Friday events to show up in support of Hartigan’s. “It’s important to rally around these girls who have been a cornerstone and pillar in the community.”
Mauney said he’s sent the Baker family his condolences. The bar is also collecting donations and condolences with a special deposit box flanked with fresh flowers placed near the entrance.
While Baker’s family and friends grieve, Mauney said it’s also important to support a business that has regularly given back to the community.
“Hartigan’s has given for years,” Mauney said. “They’ve supported the community for years. There’s a long list of organizations they’ve financially supported.”
In a show of solidarity, South End’s Bar at 316, another local gay and lesbian bar, delayed their opening. Co-owners Mark Puckett and Rodney Hines were at Hartigan’s.
“It’s about being one community and supporting other local gay establishments,” Puckett said. “We love [Hartigan’s co-owners] Bethany and Jill and the other girls and will do everything we can to support them as we would any other gay bar.”
Among those who also showed up were members of Southern Country Charlotte, a gay Country Western dancing and enthusiasts organization. The group, also known for the philanthropic giving to several local LGBT organizations, held their regularly-scheduled weekly dance lessons on Wednesday. They are slated to hold their annual Queen City Stomp dance festival at Hartigan’s in April. : :
Full statement from Hartigan’s Irish Pub
“The owners and staff of Hartigan’s Irish Pub are still in shock after the tragic and senseless event that took place Sunday. They send their condolences to the friends and family of Ms. Baker and join in their grief. Please know that the owners, staff, and private security guard did everything they could to assist Ms. Baker and to assist the police officers in their investigation. One of the staff had summoned the police prior to the stabbing, so officers were on the scene almost immediately. While officers were taking control of the situation, one of the owners was assisting the police officers and another was on the phone with the medics getting instructions. In response to the statement made anonymously by a person claiming to be a first responder that a Hartigan’s owner kept her from rendering assistance, it simply is not true. Her assertions only serve to inflame what is already a tragic and painful event. We understand the investigation is continuing and we are cooperating in any way that we can. If anyone has additional information that will assist the investigation please contact the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department.
“Hartigan’s goal has always been to provide a fun, safe, and welcoming environment for all of our patrons with a zero tolerance policy for any type of violence or fighting. To everyone who was injured, involved, or present, our thoughts and prayers go out to you. To the many, many of our friends and patrons who have reached out to us, we can’t express enough how much we appreciate the love and support you have given us.” : :