Firefighter Charles Alexander Diez, facing felony assault charges for allegedly shoot at cyclist Alan Simons‘s head last month, is no longer employed by the city of Asheville. City staff would not reveal whether Diez was fired, or chose to leave his job.
Diez’s employment with the Asheville Fire Department ended on Aug. 10, according to Lisa Roth, the city’s human resources director. His departure came just over two weeks after he was accused of firing a .38-caliber handgun at Simons while the cyclist and his family were riding on Tunnel Road on July 26. According to Asheville police, Diez had begun arguing with Simons, saying that the child seat Simons’ 3-year-old son was riding in was unsafe. As Simons began walking away, Diez fired, the bullet tearing through the back of Simons’ bike helmet, less than an inch from his head.
Diez was originally suspended, with pay, after his arrest. At the time, interim Fire Chief Scott Burnette said that decision was in line with the city’s guidelines. Diez has no prior criminal record and was sober at the time of the incident. A firefighter since 1992, Diez was making $46,839 a year before he lost his job.
After his arrest, a judge lowered Diez’s bond from $500,000 to $200,000 and he was released on July 28. Police had originally charged Diez with attempted first degree murder, but on Aug. 6, a grand jury declined to press those charges, instead opting for charges of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. Grand juries convene in secret and District Attorney Ron Moore said afterwards that he didn’t know why the grand jury rejected the murder charge.
The assault charge carries a much lighter penalty, and many in the cycling community have expressed outrage at both the incident and the decision to drop the attempted murder charge. Some have protested, calling for better conditions for cyclists.
Both Simons and Diez have not returned calls for comment.
— David Forbes, staff writer