Asheville PD Chief Zack issues statement after water, food, medical supplies destroyed by officers during protest

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ASHEVILLE, NC (WSPA) – Asheville Police Department Chief David Zack issued a statement Wednesday in regard to water, food and medical supplies being destroyed during a protest in the city Tuesday night.

This came 7 hours after Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer posted a statement on Facebook Wednesday morning:

“Last night I imposed a curfew, a hard decision to make when this nation is facing a time when the people need to be heard, but that action along with the cooperation of peaceful demonstrators helped keep Asheville safe and persons and local businesses safe.
I am aware of the incident involving officers destroying the medical supplies of demonstrators, including water bottles, food, and other supplies. Council has asked for an explanation of why that occurred.
We are a city that cares and I want to thank all of our officers who have taken a knee and worked to protect us. But this was a disappointing moment in an otherwise peaceful evening.”

-Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer

The following is Chief Zack’s full statement issued Wednesday afternoon:

Transparency and accountability is what our community expects and deserves. As the Chief of Police I understand the concern has been raised over the destruction of water, food, and medical supplies. The Asheville Police Department (APD) would always prefer confiscation over destruction. We apologize for not being able to confiscate these supplies last night.

Over the past three days APD has tried to eliminate objects that can be thrown at protesters and law enforcement. Because water bottles, in particular, have been continuously used over the last three nights, officers destroyed them. Officers also searched for potentially dangerous objects, such as explosives. 

The supply station was not permitted by the City of Asheville and was located on private property, without the permission of the property owner. The actions involving the supply station occurred following multiple warnings, and after the 8:00 p.m. city-wide curfew. 

Last night, the city-wide curfew, coupled with law enforcement strategies and peaceful protesters, led to no physical injuries and minor property damage in the downtown area. We care about the safety of the protesters in our community. The Asheville Fire Department and the Buncombe County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) are always available, and have been staffed during the events, to treat those with injuries. Both of these agencies have been closely monitoring the protests for injuries. These services can be requested by contacting 9-1-1.

– Asheville Police Chief David Zack

City officials announced a curfew between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. daily on Tuesday afternoon, stating that:

The curfew prohibits anyone within the City of Asheville, between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., from gathering or demonstrating on any public street, sidewalk, or public property.  It also prohibits travel upon any public street unless it is for the purpose of seeking medical care, food, or other necessities for yourself or a family member.  The curfew does not apply to those working at businesses providing necessary goods and services, or to members of law enforcement, medical providers, first responders, or transit operators and riders. The intent of the curfew is not to prevent individuals from accessing necessary goods and services, but to ensure safety during the State of Emergency.

A list of frequently asked questions about the curfew states that “people are allowed to travel to and from work during the curfew if they are employed at a business that provides a necessary good or service such as those listed above. “

Video submitted by Jordan Rhea

Sean Miller, a pre-law student at UNC Asheville, told 7News she was one of the organizers of the medical supply area with water bottles and medical supplies destroyed by police Tuesday evening.

Miller said nearly a dozen volunteers set up a medic center between Salsa and Farmburger Monday afternoon. She said they had spoken to restaurant owners and managers before setting up to get their approval, but had not contacted city officials for approval to provide medical assistance during curfew hours.

Miller said several volunteers, including herself, were students at UNC Asheville with no medical experience, but were there to offer support and organize efforts. She said the group of 10-12 volunteers at the medic station included certified EMT’s, doctors, nurses and military combat medics from Asheville and the surrounding area.

She claimed officers gave no warning before clearing the medic area and destroying more than $700 worth of medical supplies, including saline solution, gauze, wraps and bandages. Miller said volunteers had intended to provide medical support to anyone who needed it as protests continued after curfew and believed they were allowed to provide medical services during curfew hours.

“We were set up to provide medical support for anyone who needed it for the entirety of the protest,” she said.

She said through donations, they replenished their supply after items were destroyed by officers Tuesday evening.

Miller said the group was contacted Wednesday afternoon at approximately 2 p.m. by the Asheville Police Department. Miller said officers informed her that the property owner of the alley where they had set up the medic supply area had contacted the police department and asked the volunteers to leave.

“We were unaware there was property management company that owned the property the alleyway is on. We had the understanding it was the property of the businesses surrounding it. The second we found out it was owned by another company that had not given us permission, we relocated,” Miller said.

She said volunteers were never contacted by the property owner.

She said she and other volunteers were upset by Police Chief Zack’s statement.

“The statement was shocking. We had no explosives. There was nothing that could have been perceived as an explosive.”

Water bottles and supplies outside Zebulon Vance Monument early Tuesday morning

Before the incident, on Tuesday morning, protester Drew Ritchie told 7News crews he had seen Asheville police officers destroying a different supply of water bottles during Monday night’s protest, which had been placed in front of the Zebulon Vance Monument.

“We had water supplies and different various things for the tear gas here for people who were bystanders, and they destroyed all that and left it,” he said. “We cleaned it up.”

In response to this claim, Asheville Police Department’s Public Information Officer Christina Hallingse told 7News Thursday evening that “On Monday evening a similar,
but smaller, supply station was located downtown. Officers were able to confiscate, rather than destroy, those supplies.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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