Police arrested 11 people — including two Asheville residents — in connection with a May 1 vandalism spree in downtown Asheville that damaaged several businesses and cars. Two of the alleged vandals have connections with anarchist groups, but at press time the purpose of the actions remained unclear.
Around 10:45 p.m. on May 1, vandals shattered windows at several businesses around the Battery Park Avenue area, including The Eye Center, Bella's, the Asheville Citizen-Times, the entrance to the Grove Arcade, Cucina 24, an RBC Bank ATM and the Urban Trail station across the street from the Arcade. Several cars were also damaged. Initial reports described about 20 vandals wearing dark clothing.
"The subjects were wearing masks and face coverings and are estimated to have damaged at least eight vehicles and five businesses," an announcement from the Asheville Police Department stated. "Officers from all districts responded, as well as a K-9 unit and Forensics staff."
At a May 3 media briefing, APD Chief Bill Hogan called the vandalism "a significant rampage," adding, "I'm not really sure what message they were trying to send."
Hogan characterized the suspects as more naive than violent.
"These are not your typical criminals, per se. … It's also a little frustrating," he noted. "You talk about your best and brightest who are attending college, and here they are creating these kind of destructive acts, in some ways probably a little naive to criminal activity. I'm not even sure they realized the magnitude of their acts in terms of some of crimes. … It mystifies me a bit."
The 11 people arrested May 1 were:
Jordan M. Ferrand-Sapsis, 24, of Oklahoma City, Okla.; Naomi Rachel Ullian, 26, of West Chestnut Street in Asheville; Marshall Rogers Tingler, 24, of Oklahoma City; Daniel Heinz Regenscheit, 26, of Carrboro, N.C.; Karen Leigh Alderser, 19, of Carrboro; Alissa Marie Batzold, 18, of Carrboro; Havely Carolyn Carsky, 23, of Meadow Lake Road in Asheville; Randall Duncan Stezer, 17, of Graham, N.C.; Wyatt Sherman Allgeier, 19, of Mount Pleasant, N.C.; Cailin Elizabeth Major, 25, of Milwaukee, Wis.; and Nicholas Ryan Entwistle, 19, of Kansas City, Mo.
At press time, all of the suspects were out of jail.
At their initial arraignment May 3, bail was raised from $10,000 to $50,000. Assistant District Attorney Justin Steen requested the higher bail due "to the gravity of the charges." The next day, however, three felony charges were added — incitement to riot; felony conspiracy; and injury to a wall, fence or building exceeding $1,500 — and the bail for all except Ullian was increased again to $92,000. Ullian, who'd already been released on bail, was re-arrested on the felony charges May 3, with bail set at $42,000.
The Eye Center in the Grove Arcade sustained several thousand dollars' worth of damage when a rock broke through the shop's glass doors, and owner Paul Endry is trying to make the best of a bad situation by offering a half-off "glass blowout sale." As for the vandals themselves, Endry said: "I'm ready to forgive and forget if they'll pay for the damage, apologize and explain their motives. I hope it was just a random act of goofiness."
May 1 has a long history as a day for political protests, but it's not immediately clear what specific message — if any — those involved were trying to convey. Two of those charged, Major and Ferrand-Sapsis, have connections with anarchist groups. In 2008, Major was involved in a Michigan court case as a part of a protest by Bash Back!. Ferrand-Sapsis has been involved in activities with Kansas Mutual Aid.
Many of the arrestees are college students. Stezer attends Alamance Community College, Allgeier and Alderser study at UNC-Chapel Hill, Ullian attends Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt., and Carsky is a senior biology major at UNCA.
During the media briefing, police distributed a handout including a flier for a May Day rally in Aston Park, mug shots of the suspects and a map of the violence. Asked if they were connecting that event to the vandalism, APD spokesperson Melissa Williams said, "Our investigation continues to focus on accurately reporting the damage that was caused, identifying the specific criminal acts of the people that were arrested, determining how this event was organized, and identifying those participants that were not arrested."
Dubbing the suspects "the Asheville 11," the Anarchist News Web site called for donations to help those arrested post bail. The trial for all 11 suspects is set for June 10.