The Beat: Suspects charged in alleged hate crime

Asheville police arrested 25-year-old Weaverville resident Lamon Lewis Hopkins July 19 in connection with an assault on Asheville resident Luke Hankins at the Ingles on Patton Avenue. “As soon as I got out of the car, they started yelling at me, calling me ‘faggot’ and ‘bitch’ with no provocation,” Hankins reports.

Hankins says the group was waiting for him when he left the store, and the man now identified as Hopkins hit him in the side of the head, fracturing his face in three places.

“An anonymous tipster who had seen the story featured in the media contacted detectives and provided key information concerning the address and suspect vehicle location involved in the attack,” the APD said in a statement. After interviewing several people, the statement continues, police arrested Hopkins, who confessed to the crime. Charged with felony assault inflicting serious injury, he was released from jail on a written promise to appear.

A 15-year-old West Asheville boy was also charged in the incident (because he’s a juvenile, his name was not released). Investigators believe the boy pushed Hankins, causing his glasses to fall off and break; two others involved in the incident won’t be charged, according to police Lt. Wally Welch.

Hankins has filed a complaint against the APD officer who responded to his call, saying he didn’t file a report or interview witnesses, including an older man who helped the victim find his glasses and may have seen part of the attack.

“[The officer] asked me what happened, took my cell number, my license, asked if I wanted him to call me if he found them,” Hankins says. “The officer never asked anyone around questions; I was too dazed to think to do that. There was a witness that could’ve been important.”

Welch confirmed that a complaint has been filed and that “His claims are being investigated by Professional Services. Can’t elaborate beyond that.”

In an email to Asheville City Council members, Angel Chandler of the LGBT rights organization GetEQUAL protested the APD’s decision to allow the officer in question to continue performing his duties while the investigation continues. Urging Council members to hold the officer accountable by “getting him off the streets,” Chandler called on both City Council and the mayor’s office to issue a statement condemning the department’s lack of action against the officer.

Amid public outcry, Henderson County commissioners delay action on pet sales

Controversy erupted at the Henderson County Board of Commissioners’ July 20 meeting over a proposal to allow the sale of cats and dogs at flea markets, farmers markets and other such venues. The board banned these sales in 2009.

Local groups had urged their supporters to attend the meeting and condemn the proposal. In a letter to the commissioners, Stewart David of Carolina Animal Action called the proposed modification of the animal ordinance “a giant step backwards,” adding, “Giving ‘backyard breeders’ and ‘puppy mill’ operators this outlet for the sale of animals will exacerbate the current overpopulation problem. As long as we have so many ‘surplus’ animals, it's a simple equation: Breeding equals killing.”

After about a dozen people spoke in opposition, the commissioners backed off, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported, asking the county’s Animal Services Committee to research how the new rule would be enforced, as well as the cost associated with requiring veterinarian involvement, and report back in September.

— � David Forbes and Christopher George

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