Stabbing sparks community reaction, questions of possible hate crime

On March 17, a man — reportedly shouting homophobic and racist slurs — stabbed a Club Metropolis employee.  The crime has sparked a community reaction.

According to Asheville Police Department reports, Asheville resident Brandon Curtis Hamlin attacked Crystal June Benfield, a club staffer who was off-duty. Hamlin was charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and carrying an concealed weapon. He was taken to the Buncombe County jail on a $5,000 bond but released March 21. Benfield remains in the hospital.

An APD spokesperson reports that the assault does not qualify as a hate crime, nor meet the criteria for an attempted murder charge. Hamlin, in the APD’s words, has an “extensive local criminal history” mostly larceny, with “several assaults in the past.”

“This was absolutely a hate crime,” counters Metropolis manager Roshon Cray.

Joe Mitchell, manager of the adjoining Club Hairspray, says that his staff report seeing Hamlin grab patrons inside the bar. Hamlin was ejected by the club’s security. Mitchell and Cray also say Hamlin shouted slurs after he was removed, continued shouting once he’d left the club’s property and quickly got into a fight in the nearby street.

Club staff called the APD, but before officers arrived, Hamlin stabbed Benfield, who may have been trying to help break up the fight.

“He came into the establishment to cause trouble, and the staff did absolutely everything they could [to stop him],” Cray tells Xpress. “There’s no doubt in my mind they [club staff and Benfield] saved lives.”

“Asheville’s always been a home for LGBT people,” Cray says. “These kind of things can’t be tolerated, and we need to band everyone together.”

Club Metropolis is organizing a Saturday, April 20, benefit for Benfield. For more further details, contact themetrosphere [at] gmail.com.

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