This is a developing story. Stay tuned for more updates.

UPDATE — June 29, 2015, 12:01 a.m. — This story has been updated with remarks from another eyewitness who disputes other accounts of the incident. This story was earlier updated on June 28, 2015, 8:04 p.m., with a statement from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department regarding police response times.

UPDATE — June 29, 2015, 9:14 a.m. — Family acquaintance speaks out on conflicting reports that suspect is himself gay, saying he is not, adding that suspect is still in Mecklenburg County Jail and that his parents have been advised to speak to an attorney before speaking to media.

UPDATE — July 1, 2015, 11:09 a.m. — Sunday’s story on the assault prompted a great deal of online conversation and criticism. Read our update on the story here.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A man has been arrested and charged with assault and communicating threats after an early Sunday morning incident at a local gay bar. During the incident, the man was allegedly ranting about the Supreme Court’s recent marriage equality decision. Patrons and community members are calling the assault a hate crime, but a friend of the suspect said Sunday she doesn’t believe he is homophobic and another eyewitness is disputing other accounts of the incident.

Lucas Wilhelmson
Lucas Wilhelmson

The incident occurred shortly before 2 a.m. on Sunday at The Bar at 316, an LGBT bar open in Dilworth under several names since 1989. The suspect, Lucas Dylan Wilhelmson, 21, allegedly harassed several patrons while using anti-gay slurs and later physically assaulted the bar’s owner, Jeff Edwards.

According to eye witnesses, Wilhelmson came into the bar at shortly after 1 a.m. and immediately began harassing patrons. A police report notes that Wilhelmson came into the bar at 1:50 a.m.

“He came in and began harassing a female patron, asking her if she knew this was a gay bar and beginning to fight with her friend, who he thought was her husband,” said Kolby Brinkley, Edwards’ partner and the bar’s general manager.

After that disagreement, Brinkley saw Wilhelmson exit the bar’s second floor through a fire escape. Edwards followed him down. Brinkley said Edwards did not want Wilhelmson, who he said was obviously intoxicated and had car keys, to drive away from the bar.

“Jeff wanted to call him a cab and make sure he wasn’t going to drink and drive,” Brinkley said.

But the incident only worsened when Edwards followed Wilhelmson, who apparently then began assaulting Edwards. A police report said Edwards was assaulted at least 15 times. A short video of the incident shared with qnotes by an eyewitness shows the suspect repeatedly choking, hitting and slapping Edwards, who apparently never struck the suspect.

The police report and eyewitnesses also said Wilhelmson threatened to come back to the bar and kill Edwards. Brinkley said Wilhelmson was ranting about his disagreement with Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision on marriage equality.

Brinkley thinks the incident was motivated by hate and bias, a sentiment quickly spreading among patrons and community members online on Sunday evening.

“He came in here to start a fight,” Brinkley said. “From the second he started talking to people, it was downhill from there. He was looking for trouble. He said he was straight, but you could tell he obviously had deep issues from what he was saying and how he was acting. When he came in, he did not seem friendly at all.”

Edwards was not available for comment on Sunday and wasn’t at the bar, instead spending the day at home, according to Brinkley. Edwards suffered several scratches, bruises and swelling and has a sore neck today.

“I was just shocked by it all,” Brinkley added.

Friend, acquaintance dispute incident

An acquaintance of Wilhelmson and his family contacted qnotes Sunday evening saying she doubted the attack was due to homophobia.

“I know this boy, I know his family,” said JoJo Hammond, a lesbian who lives with her wife in Apex, near Wilhelmson’s family.

Hammond says Wilhelmson’s father plays in her band, and that Wilhelmson has been to her concerts. She’s known him for about a year, she said.

“When he gets a little drunk, he can be a little crazy, but I have never known him to be homophobic,” Hammond said. “When I heard of the story, I was very shocked that he would even be considered for a hate crime, because he’s just a nice kid. I have seen him when he’s had too much to drink, but a hate crime? I just don’t see that.”

Hammond pointed qnotes to a friend she said was with Wilhelmson at the bar. qnotes was unable to reach him via phone or through online messages.

Another acquaintance, Justin Hansil, told qnotes late Sunday evening that he felt the incident had been wrongly reported. He was at the bar when Wilhelmson arrived with a mutual friend at 12:36 a.m. Hansil said Wilhelmson began to get into altercations with other men on the bar’s second-floor balcony. Those disagreements, Hansil said, came after Wilhelmson began grabbing other men’s butts.

When Wilhelmson was confronted, Hansil said he replied, “Oh, I just thought you’d like it,” like “something out of a sexual harassment handbook,” Hansil said.

After another altercation with a friend of Hansil’s, Hansil told Wilhelmson to go back inside the bar. Hansil didn’t witness what led to Wilhelmson going downstairs, but said Wilhelmson “wasn’t being ridiculously violent” and he didn’t hear him say anything positive or negative about the Supreme Court decision, though he did hear profanity and slurs.

“He was just trying to argue inane subjects with [Edwards] and punctuating it with a punch to his stomach and face,” Hansil said, describing Wilhelmson’s comments as “things that a drunken person would repeat over and over again that doesn’t make any sense.”

qnotes has attempted to reach Wilhelmson, his father or an attorney through Hammond. The family acquaintance told qnotes that Wilhelmson does not yet have an attorney.

“His dad has been advised to wait until they talk to an attorney,” Hammond said. “For right now, I can be a liaison.”

Conflicting reports in online comment threads have debated whether or not Wilhelmson himself is gay. Hammond disputes that.

“No he is not gay,” she said.

Police response delayed by nearby disturbance

An eyewitness and Brinkley said several people called police multiple times. At least 30 minutes passed, they said, before police finally arrived.

“Why did it take police 8 phone calls and 35 minutes later to show up to someone getting beat and assaulted?” asked eyewitness Tyler Barker on Facebook. “Very disappointed in the police but thankful it didn’t turn out worst [sic] than it could have.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Public Affairs Coordinator told qnotes Sunday evening that 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. “Once officers cleared the scene on Randolph Road they responded to 316 Rensselaer Avenue and arrested the individual involved in the assault.”

Wilhelmson released on bail

Wilhelmson, of Holly Springs, N.C., has been charged with misdemeanor simple assault and communicating threats. As of Monday morning, he was still being held in Mecklenburg County Jail on $3,000 bond, according to the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department inmate inquiry and according to family acquaintance Hammond, though The Charlotte Observer reported Sunday that Wilhelmson had been released Sunday after posting bail. Hammond said Wilhelmson’s family is “trying to teach him a lesson.”

Wilhelmson has not been charged with a hate crime. North Carolina law does not recognize hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Wilhelmson has three prior arrests, according to Wake County, N.C., arrest records. In February 2015, he was charged with a hit and run with property damage. In November 2012, he was charged with assault. In December 2010, he was charged with a DWI.

This is a developing story. Stay tuned for more updates.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.

29 replies on “Man assaults Charlotte gay bar owner while ranting about Supreme Court marriage decision, eyewitnesses say”

  1. I have seen this so many times through out the years in so many bars all over the US. Education, Tolerance for Others and Acceptance are so far from reality…… I pray it will calm down soon.

  2. It sounds like this young man hasn’t accepted his own sexuality. Perhaps when he sobers up he can do some soul searching…

  3. I was there the entire night and had several interactions with the suspect. Though he was rather drunk and belligerent, most of this story is fabricated. Poor journalism at best, let’s not turn Qnotes into a tabloid.

  4. I was not only there but a witness to the whole event and this is exactly what happened. Nothing is fabricated about it.

  5. It does not matter how nice the kid was. That is for the judge to determine.

    FYI: There are at least three bias crime (hate crime) indicators present that demand that this be investigated as a hate crime. 1. Location: It is a gay bar. 2. Date/Time: It is after the SCOTUS decisoin 3. Language used was anti-LGBT and there are witnesses who heard the language used as bar owner was being assaulted. 4. Witness perception that it was because of anti-LGBT prejudice. Law enforcement should be aware that one or more of these reasons justify an investigation that looks at this as a potential hate crime for prosecution. It deeply concerns me if CMPD is not aware of this.…/responding/files/sessionA.pdf

    1. Hell no, your ‘glorious’ owner/victim says it’s not a gay bar, just like those damned Petra’s owners. So, don’t you dare use that term when it is a convenience to you and then deny it every other chance you get. Disgusting.

  6. He is currently 21 but received a DWI in 2010? Either this article is erroneous or this boy has more issues than his sexual insecurity.

    1. Why in the _______ was he so upset? Remember that 316 is very proud to say they are not a gay bar!!! He was in the wrong place if he was looking for a gay bar.

  7. This man is my best friend. He is not homophobic whatsoever. His best friend since 6th grade who is also a friend of mine and a resident of charlotte came out of the closet less than a few years ago and they remain great friends to this day. I have seen Luke very intoxicated and this behavior is not surprising. Luke has been going through the roughest period of his life and as of lately has not been coping in beneficial ways for himself or others. That being said he is still my best friend and I would just like you guys to consider my point of view and not assume things of his character solely based on this. I am a full supporter of this recent supreme court decision and support gay rights to the fullest.

    1. As someone who knows what it’s like to be the rowdy one when he’s drunk… and also someone who dealt with things poorly (i.e. drinking and partying)…. I hope he can get back on track and make amends for his actions to the people he has hurt. It’s a rough road, but one where we have to take full responsibility for our actions.

      1. If you are this man’s best friend, you would be doing him a favor if you don’t drink with him anymore, if you try to get him into a cab home when he’s had too much to drink, and if you help de-escalate situations when he is drinking. I hope he gets help and that his friends are supportive by not drinking with him and encouraging good behaviors, so that you don’t wind up ever having to defend his criminal actions after the fact again.

  8. I love Jeff and will contact him to see how he is. The police can make an arrest for assault but it will be up to the district attorney to add on hate crimes charges.

    1. Mr. Covington: The District Attorney could care less. The owner is no saint and has betrayed other employees and turned his back on the gay community. You should be ashamed.

  9. Dylann Roof’s friends said they knew him as well. Mr. Luke gets drunk because he gets drunk. He behaves the way he does because he chooses to behave the way he does. Not because of this, that or the other. You say he’s your friend? Then straighten his ass out. If you cannot, then he will face the consequences of his actions while you fend off the press, hounding you for a little extra color.

  10. What kind of friend allows a friend to get crazy drunk and go out in public like this? If he is having trouble “coping”,then he needs help.

  11. Fuck you idiots. He is not a homophobe everyone who knows him including gay people say he is not you dumb shits. He should clearly be charged with assault not a hate crime bit I’m sure the political left will cover up any testimony from his friends and other bar patrons. To keep the all straight white people are homophobic & racist narrative going. Also forgive my English.

  12. Every choice has a consequence and every consequence has a choice. Being drunk or having a rough time in life is not an excuse for illegal behavior, assault or a hate crime charge.

    1. Hate crime or NO, the probability is your friend will get jail time because this will more than likely will go down as a felonies’ assault and conveying a threat. In addition, the court will factor in his history of violence. While serving his time, I hope for his sake he will grow up, realize his problem before it is too late, and not make the same mistake again.

      1. Maybe the owner should do some time as well. Why are you always defending these bar owners who have screwed us all over?

    2. No. First of all there is no evidence to substantiate a hate crime, so stop with the propaganda. Also, does it look good for someone who works at the bar to be spinning such mess on the internet? Just because it’s what you do all the time doesn’t mean it’s a good idea in the real world.

      Remember that harassment is not legally constituted just by approaching someone and asking questions that make them uncomfortable, which is how this all began. Only when the assault began was the law broken, and the details of what led to that after the ‘following on the fire escape’ is still very sketchy at best.

      Maybe if your drag queen persona would have took a running leap on top of this man, the assault would have been shorter or even non existent.

      Damn the CMPD for their lies about response time. Typical.

  13. This young man needs help addressing his drinking problem (which he clearly has — even JoJo in the article, and some commentators have acknowledged). Additionally, he received a DWI when he was 16 years old in 2010 — And I suspect alcohol was involved in his assault and hit & run charges as well.

    It seems he needs to address his sexuality issues too.

  14. Shane Windamiere and Tommy Feldmann are in the sack with this bar owner. Makes me sick to my stomach. Maybe this alleged attacker was just a disgruntled former employee: One of many that bunch has screwed over severely in the past. Hopefully they will finally close down that hellhole.

  15. This owner/’victim’ has lied and screwed so many people over, there’s not telling what the real story behind this is. He should be ashamed of that place. He is disgusting to call it ‘LGBT friendly’. Sound like one of those Petra’s ‘whored out’ owners.

  16. First of all there is no evidence to substantiate a hate crime, so stop with the propaganda. Also, does it look good for a drag queen who works at the bar to be spinning such mess on the internet? Just because it’s what they do all the time doesn’t mean it’s a good idea in the real world.

    Remember that harassment is not legally constituted just by approaching someone and asking questions that make them uncomfortable, which is how this all began. Only when the assault began was the law broken, and the details of what led to that after the ‘following on the fire escape’ is still very sketchy at best.

    Maybe if the drag queen would have taken a running leap on top of this man, the assault would have been shorter or even nonexistent.

  17. Just know that the gay community doesn’t support bars or businesses who were once gay and now have ‘whored out’ to the straights, like Petra’s and several others here in Charlotte. “LGBT Friendly’ is a pathetic cop out and you know it. All you have left are the desperate gay 20 year old drunk backstabbers. Good luck with all that.

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