A manager and an employee at the Bier Garden, a bar and restaurant in downtown Asheville, were arrested on assault charges after fighting with an Alcohol Law Enforcement agent early on the morning of Saturday, May 24.
ALE alleges that the agent, David Miller, was attacked while trying to write tickets to employees and their friends, who were drinking after hours. But in a call to 911 just after the fight started, Malcolm Knighten, manager at the Bier Garden, said that Miller was harassing the employees.
“I’ve got a fight in my bar,” Knighten says on the recording of the call. “I guess this guy’s a police officer, but he’s just making threats and cussing at people. He’s physically fighting my bouncer right now. We suspect he may or may not be intoxicated.” In the background on the call, someone, presumably Miller, can be heard saying, “You’re going to get maced for real, dude,” to bouncer Michael Plemmons after the fight started.
Knighten was charged with assault with a deadly weapon after allegedly striking Miller twice with a bar stool, and Plemmons was charged with assault inflicting serious injury after he allegedly struck Miller and bit one of his fingers. Both were arrested, and later additional charges of resisting arrest and interfering with an Alcohol Beverage Control inspection were tacked on.
Miller “looked through the window and saw people drinking after hours [around 3 a.m.],” local ALE supervisor Alan Page told Xpress. “That is a violation of North Carolina law [which prohibits drinking in a bar after 2:30 a.m.]. He walked in, told them who he was and started to write a ticket.”
Page said that the persons Miller was about to ticket—two unidentified employees and one patron—were cooperative. “There were no problems; they knew what they were doing was illegal. They were pouring out their drinks and he [Miller] was getting ready to write a ticket and let them go.”
Then, Page said, Plemmons approached Miller “and started cursing at him,” then struck Miller with his fist and began grappling with him. Page also asserted that Plemmons bit Miller’s index finger.
In the 911 call, Knighten said that Miller was pepper-spraying Plemmons. He tells Plemmons, “Mikey, hang on until the police get here,” and then, after shouting and sounds of a struggle are heard in the background, shouts at Miller, “You’re not acting like a cop at all, and I don’t believe you are [one].”
The call ends with Asheville Police officers arriving.
Page later said that Knighten attacked Miller. “Knighten struck Dave with a bar stool. Holding it above his head, he struck him twice,” Page said. “The patron [that Miller was about to ticket earlier] stepped in and took the stool away from him.”
After the altercation, APD officers arrived on the scene and arrested Knighten and Plemmons. Plemmons’ bond was set at $6,000 and Knighten’s at $5,500.
Miller, Page said, experienced back pain as a result of the fight, along with lacerations on his index finger and above his left eye.
“I’m concerned that the people there were just sitting around while this was going on,” Page said. “You’d think people would have a civil obligation to help someone in need. Though that one guy [who took the bar stool from Knighten] did help, and we appreciate that.”
He added that the Bier Garden “could face administrative penalties” for the incident, along with the charges against the employees.
Employees at the Bier Garden said the owner has directed them not to comment about the incident. On Monday, June 2, Page said that he would have more information about the case and the ALE’s actions later in the week.