Former Asheville firefighter Charles Alexander Diez will spend four months in prison for shooting cyclist Alan Simons in July. Diez plead guilty to assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill yesterday.
On July 26, Simons was riding with his family on Tunnel Road. According to Asheville police, Diez had stopped to argue with Simons, saying that the child seat the cyclist’s 3-year-old son was riding in was unsafe. As Simons began walking away, Diez fired his handgun, the .38-caliber bullet tearing through the back of Simons’ bike helmet, less than an inch from his head. Diez has no prior criminal record and was sober at the time. While he was originally suspended with pay at the time of the incident, on Aug. 10 he ended employment with the Asheville Fire Department.
While Diez was originally charged with attempted first-degree murder, a grand jury refused to press those charges, instead indicting him on the felony assault charge.
Convictions on such a charge result in an average 20-39 months in prison for the defendant. But in the sentencing, Superior Court Judge James Downs found that Diez’s military service, along with testimony from former colleagues about his good character, were mitigating factors, and chose to sentence him to 15-27 months instead. Downs suspended all but four months of that sentence unless Diez breaks the law again in the next 30 months. As part of his sentence, Diez is required to attend anger-management training and pay $1,200 to cover Simons’ medical costs for damage to his eardrum.
The case has caused controversy, especially in the cycling community, over what some perceive as the overly lenient treatment Diez has received. After the attempted murder charge was dropped in August, cyclists protested the decision and called for better conditions.
—David Forbes, staff writer