A North Carolina man is reportedly free on bond after his arrest for assault and making threats at a Charlotte LGBT bar — apparently in anger over Friday’s Supreme Court decision.
A police report said Lucas Dylan Wilhelmson assaulted the bar’s owner, Jeff Edwards, at least 15 times. A short video of the incident that a witness shared with the local LGBT news website QNotes shows the suspect repeatedly choking, hitting and slapping Edwards, who apparently never struck the suspect.
Kolby Brinkley, partner of Edwards, and the bar’s general manager, said Wilhelmson was ranting about his disagreement with Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision on marriage equality. He thinks the incident was motivated by hate and bias.
The police report and witnesses also said Wilhelmson threatened to come back to the bar and kill Edwards, according to QNotes.
Patrons of The Bar at 316 in Dilworth, N.C., told QNotes that Wilhelmsson, 21, started harassing customers almost from the moment he arrived, sometime between 1 and 2 A.M. Sunday.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police spokesman Rob Tufano told The Charlotte Observer a man later identified as Wilhelmson was “calling out people using derogatory terms.” Witnesses told it appeared to them Wilhelmson was drunk and "looking for trouble."
“He came in here to start a fight,” said Brinkley. “He came in and began harassing a female patron, asking her if she knew this was a gay bar and beginning to fight with her friend, who he thought was her husband."
“From the second he started talking to people, it was downhill from there. He was looking for trouble. He said he was straight, but you could tell he obviously had deep issues from what he was saying and how he was acting. When he came in, he did not seem friendly at all.”
Edwards asked the man to leave and escorted him to the front door, Tufano told The Observer.
The newspaper reported that the bar owner noticed the man was drunk, and offered to call him a taxi, since it appears he was going to get behind the wheel of a car.
“Jeff wanted to call him a cab and make sure he wasn’t going to drink and drive,” Brinkley told QNotes.
“He slaps the owner several times,” said Tufano. “He continued to slap him. The owner never hits him back, according to witnesses.”
Edwards was not available for comment on Sunday and wasn’t at the bar, instead spending the day at home, according to Brinkley. Edwards suffered several scratches, bruises and swelling and has a sore neck.
“I was just shocked by it all,” Brinkley added.
An acquaintance of Wilhelmson contacted QNotes Sunday evening to defend him against accusations of homophobia.
“I know this boy, I know his family,” said JoJo Hammond, a lesbian who lives with her wife in Apex, near Wilhelmson’s family.
Hammond says Wilhelmson’s father plays in her band, and that Wilhelmson has been to her concerts. She’s known him for about a year, she said.
“When he gets a little drunk, he can be a little crazy, but I have never known him to be homophobic,” Hammond said. “When I heard of the story, I was very shocked that he would even be considered for a hate crime, because he’s just a nice kid. I have seen him when he’s had too much to drink, but a hate crime? I just don’t see that.”
A witness and Brinkley said several people called police multiple times. At least 30 minutes passed, they said, before police finally arrived.
“Why did it take police 8 phone calls and 35 minutes later to show up to someone getting beat and assaulted?” witness Tyler Barker posted on Facebook, according to QNotes. “Very disappointed in the police but thankful it didn’t turn out worst [sic] than it could have.”
Tufano told QNotes Sunday evening that the delayed response time was caused by a large disturbance near The Bar at 316.
“Officers were on the scene of a large disturbance involving more than 500 people on Randolph Road during the time of the assault,” Tufano said in a statement. “Once officers cleared the scene on Randolph Road they responded to 316 Rensselaer Avenue and arrested the individual involved in the assault.”
Wilhelmson, of Holly Springs, N.C., has been charged with misdemeanor simple assault and communicating threats and was held on $3,000 bond. The Charlotte Observer reported Sunday that Wilhelmson had been released after posting bail.
Tufano said additional additional charges could be pending against Wilhelmson, but he said he has not been charged with a hate crime, and he didn’t know whether the incident would be investigated as a hate crime. North Carolina law does not recognize hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
QNotes reported Wilhelmson has three prior arrests, according to Wake County, N.C., arrest records. In February 2015, he was charged with a hit and run with property damage. In November 2012, he was charged with assault. In December 2010, he was charged with a DWI.