Letter: Question the priorities of APD and DA’s office

Graphic by Lori Deaton

We’ve all read about the shortage of officers in the Asheville Police Department.

However, four police cars arrived at a legal downtown-bridge banner action by four elders (in their 70s) on April 13. Two officers remained and approached each elder for their name and some personal information.

Juxtapose this with: An armed robber attacked a couple leaving a downtown restaurant on April 11, two days before the bridge action [avl.mx/cqp].

There is much media coverage, and concern regarding downtown crime. So why dispatch four APD vehicles to an elderly event?

Turnover results in a staff shortage in the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office.

However, how many scarce resources are being used to prosecute the Aston Park defendants? (Sixteen people were arrested Christmas week 2021 for bringing food and supplies to the homeless encamped in a city park after hours, charged with felony littering.)

Key evidence was possibly mishandled by an APD officer who also, during testimony, discussed evidence not provided to the defense during discovery [avl.mx/cqq]. (Please read this article in its entirety to see that the defendants may have had plans to clean the park after giving food to the homeless. It seems this was not disclosed in earlier media reports.)

Juxtapose this with: The DA’s office has a backlog of 40 murder cases [avl.mx/cqr].

Priorities? The purpose of this letter is not to motivate support for or attack against either situation and/or those involved but to motivate city/county residents to question the priorities of the APD and the DA in these times of staff shortages and increased serious crime, along with the dire situation of homelessness in Asheville.

— Cynthia Heil

Editor’s note: Xpress contacted APD and the DA’s office for a response to the writer’s points. We received the following response from APD spokesperson Samantha Booth: “Officers did respond to the Montford Avenue bridge over Interstate 240 to investigate a report of a group of people with signs blocking pedestrian traffic. Historically, this has been a location where banners have been illegally hung off the bridge. Four officers who were in the nearby area due to the city of Asheville’s 60-day downtown initiative responded to assist in case there was a large group. However, only one of those officers made contact with the group. The officer making contact introduced herself to the group and explained why officers were responding and warned the group about blocking pedestrian traffic (city ordinance 16-2). In addition, the officer reminded the group that it is illegal to hang signs on the bridge. Not only is it a violation of city ordinance Sec. 11-1 (Advertisements — Posting on public or semipublic property), it is a dangerous distraction for drivers commuting through an already congested area.”

Xpress also received the following response from District Attorney Todd Williams: “It’s true that the reduction in court operations during the pandemic resulted in case backlogs statewide across all pending criminal case types due to social distancing and other precautions taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19. That said, it remains the duty of the district attorney’s office to seek justice in each case, and it is incorrect to assume that a general amnesty or immunity should be extended in criminal matters occurring during the pandemic or during a period of case-processing backlog due to the pandemic. Our duty as prosecutors is unchanged. The DA’s office is fully staffed in excess of the apportioned number of assistant district attorneys allotted to this office by the North Carolina State Legislature. A ruling from the court is expected and likely forthcoming this week in regard to evidentiary issues involving APD.”


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6 thoughts on “Letter: Question the priorities of APD and DA’s office

  1. Prop Joe

    Ms. “Head in the Clouds” returns. Did your banner mention the war machine? Imagine that….70 year olds peacefully protesting the very thing that ensures their freedom to protest. And Indy499 said it perfectly, it’s silly to chastise the APD for not doing its job while complaining about the APD doing its job. Thank you to Chief Zack and his officers for removing trespassers from the park and for removing this unsafe banner from I240.

  2. Shultz!

    Perhaps y’all should consider the flip side – this banner gimmick took 4 officers away from otherwise meaningful work keeping the city safe to deal with it. Protest all you want, but do it legally & in a way that doesn’t tax our already taxed police force.

    Typical boomers with their heads up their keisters – be they trumpy or hippy nowadays – they’re still the ‘Me’ generation.

  3. kw

    We still haven’t heard the full story about those felonious firefighting’ tourists who OD’ed at Grove Park and (also) used up our valuable resources (paid by our taxes) and, to my knowledge, were never charged. What gives? Let’s stop all these privileged white folks from banner-waving and using drugs and endangering the good people in our town…

  4. Taxpayer

    There were 4 officers downtown and they went. One officer spoke with the “elders”. Are elders supposed to get special treatment for blocking traffic? Like journalists that can refuse to leave when trespassing are supposed to get a free pass? Lol. GTHO

  5. ennagiarc@gmail.com

    Apparently, some of these comments are meant to be insulting and denigrating to local citizens who are exercising their first amendment rights out of concerns for our society. Yes, ‘banner blogging’ as it is called, needs to be done with safety concerns in mind. Drivers have to multitask when they drive…observing directional signs, speed limit signs, other cars, etc. A banner held aloft is simply another sign with a message. The officers checking on the small group of elders determined that the banner blogging was being done with care. So why four police cars?

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