Former Asheville firefighter Charles Alexander Diez will spend four months in jail for shooting at cyclist Alan Simons last July. Diez pleaded guilty Nov. 19 to assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.
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 had no prior criminal record and was sober at the time. In the wake of the incident, Diez was suspended with pay; as of Aug. 10, he was no longer employed by the Asheville Fire Department.
Diez was originally charged with attempted first-degree murder, but a grand jury refused to press those charges, instead indicting him on the felony-assault charge.
Sentences for defendants convicted on such charges average 20 to 39 months, according to state charts. But for Superior Court Judge James Downs, Diez's military service, as well as testimony from former colleagues about his good character, were mitigating factors, and Downs instead chose to sentence the defendant to 15 to 27 months, with all but four months suspended unless Diez breaks the law again during the next 30 months. The defendant must also attend anger-management training and pay $1,200 to cover Simons' medical costs for damage to his eardrum.
The case has sparked controversy, especially within the cycling community. After the attempted-murder charge was dropped in August, some protested what they saw as overly lenient treatment of Diez and called for better road conditions for cyclists.