Buncombe Sheriff's Spokesman Covers Up Protest - TribPapers

Buncombe Sheriff’s Spokesman Covers Up Protest

The highlighted call to a special assignment at the Buncombe County Detention Center has called into question the truthfulness of the Buncombe County Sheriff's public information officer. Screenshot.

Asheville – On December 31st of last year at 9:10 p.m., Skyline News took to Facebook to report about a protest many have disputed took place, including the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office. However, the Asheville City Police did confirm the protest took place by blocking the entrances to the Buncombe County Detention Center.

Skyline reported, “Hundreds of Antifa block all entrances to the Buncombe County jail and the magistrates office – several streets blocked in downtown asheville by protestors on bikes – area where officers bring in arrested individuals to the jail is blocked – over 200 protestors suround [sic]the jail wearing masks – protestors demading [sic] the release of prisoners – apd, bc sheriffs office, and NC Highway Patrol standing by – do not go downtown asheville – file photo.”

Skyline News, founded by Chad Nesbitt, who is the outlet’s main reporter, received a lot of negative comments about the report. Here are several examples:Martha Dean Johnson posted a comment a little after 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, saying, “Just drove through downtown; lots of tourists; very peaceful.”Marilyn Mercer said, “I think someone is pulling Chad’s leg. Is it April 1st?” Ronnie Barnett stated, “Why is this so-called ‘news’ story not in any local media? The Alex Jones wannabe is hallucinating again.”

So did it happen or not?

The Tribune Paper wanted to know if this event really happened or not, so we did a little digging. First, we went to Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Aaron Sarver. Sarver said in an emailed statement, “Jail operations were normal on 12/31/2022, with the exception of a higher number of bookings than a normal [sic] that day, due to it being a Saturday and New Year’s Eve. The claim that the entrance to the jail was blocked by protestors is misinformation.”

He went on to say, “At [a] minimum, you are intentionally misinforming community members.” He also stated, “Additional comments on the Facebook post from multiple stakeholders, including bail bondsmen and others who were working on New Year’s Eve, attest to the normal operation of the jail with people being arrested and processed without incident.” Sarver did not cite any specific “stakeholders” or “bail bondsmen” that the Tribune could contact.

The Tribune also asked Sarvor for a computed-aided dispatch (CAD) report of the time period from 5 p.m. until midnight on December 31st. Sarver sent what appeared to be a call log. On the report at 8:34 p.m., there was an Asheville Police Department dispatch to the detention center for a “special assignment.” 

The Tribune contacted APD about the call and also asked Sarver about getting details about the “special assignment.” Sarver replied, “That information is not public record per North Carolina G.S. 132-1.4A.” 

Asheville City Police Public Relations Officer Samantha Booth talked with the newspaper about the protest, saying, “It’s very strange that it is coded ‘special assignment.’ Because it should not be coded as a special assignment. It’s the dispatchers that put in the nature [of the call] code,” Booth explained.  

“I can confirm to you [that] there was a crowd of people blocking the entrance to the jail, and then, at some point, they did disperse.” She also confirms the protestors blocked the entrance where officers take suspects into the detention center to be booked. Booth did send us the CAD report, which Sarver said was not public record.

While the Tribune could not confirm the 200 protestors, the newspaper’s anonymous source said there was an event with about 75 people involved, no arrests were made, and when asked, the group dispersed.

Skyline News sticking to report

While acknowledging that the photo that accompanied the report was a file photo and not from the actual event, Nesbitt is sticking by the report. In a live report on January 2, Nesbitt said Skyline is sticking by its report.

He also stated in a follow-up post on January 1st that “Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross [takes] credit for blocking the entrances to the BC jail facility and magistrate’s office.”
The post stated, “On the evening of December 31st, 2022, approximately 200 Antifa anarchists blocked all entrances of the Buncombe County Jail Facility and the Magistrates office. Anarchists also blocked city streets with teams of bicyclists.

“Asheville Police and BC, Sheriff CAD reports, verify the Anarchists were spread out all around the jail facility. Antifa also blocked the main entrance, where officers bring people they have arrested for processing into the jail. All anarchists faces were covered with masks.

“The Antifa group taking credit for the New Years [sic]Eve disruption is Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross. The group has been posting on social media, asking local anarchists to attend. The group also displayed signs on the Haywood Rd. bridge that goes over I-240.

“Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross social media says they want criminals in jail released and believe people should not be arrested for crimes.”SKYline could not find any arrests of people blocking city streets or entranceways to the jail facility. We have contacted the Asheville Police Department and the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, asking why there were no arrests.

“Asheville resident Dillard Ramsey said, ‘Antifa only terrorizes communities that have liberal voters because they know the liberal leaders tell law enforcement to stand down and let it happen. You will never see Antifa show up in a conservative county because conservative sheriffs do not put up with terrorism.'”

The Tribune emailed Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross (blueridgeabc@riseup.net) and asked them:

1) Did your group do an “Asheville Annual New Year’s Eve Boise Demo and Bailout Action” event on December 31, 2022?

2) If so, how many people did you have take part in the event?

3) Did you block any entrances to the Buncombe County Detention Center? Any roads in Asheville?

4) If you did, why do you think the event was not covered by WLOS or the Citizen-Times or even acknowledged by the sheriff’s office?

4) Do you believe the local media and law enforcement are trying to minimize the impact of your event?

As of press time, the Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross had not replied to our email.

Editor’s note: See related commentary on page 10.

Full disclosure: Nesbitt used to be a reporter for the Tribune Papers before starting his own news outlet.