Is it ‘over’ for Asheville? S.C. tourist stabbed in back with hypodermic needle by homeless panhandler after refusing to give him money, police report states (2024)

From Staff Reports

A homeless man is facing an assault charge after a male South Carolina tourist was stabbed in the back with a hypodermic needle about 6:30 p.m. May 31 while walking on the 30 block of Biltmore Avenue in downtown Asheville with his wife and two young children, Asheville television station WLOS (News 13) reported on June 18.

Julien Bryan McArthur – described as “homeless” – is accused of stabbing the tourist after he refused to give money to the panhandler, the Asheville Police Department noted.

“The victim told police that Julien Bryan McArthur approached him and his family while they were walking and asked for money,” News 13’s story stated. “The victim, who was visiting from South Carolina, said he refused and continued walking.

“Minutes later, the victim said he was helping his family get into their car.”

APD Detective Nathan Dietiker told News 13 that, at that point, the victim “suddenly felt (something) like a prick or a sting in his back — and turned around and saw the same man that had been asking him for money,”

“The victim went to Mission Hospital and they confirmed that he was in fact stabbed with a hypodermic needle. He’s since been released and remains on antibiotics, according to authorities.”

Providiing further details, Greenville, S.C., television station WYFF (News 4) reported on June 18 that the suspect “picked up a hypodermic needle from the ground and stabbed the victim in the back as he was walking away.”

McArthur was arrested on June 17 and charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to inflict serious injury, resisting a public officer and “soliciting alms/beg for money.” He is being held in the Buncombe County Detention Center, under a $51,000 secured bond.

Speaking generally, Deitiker told News 13 that, while violent incidents like the hypodermic needle stabbing do not happen often, the APD is “very familiar” with McArthur.

“Several, several times for years downtown, there’s an array of crimes that have been committed by him,” he was quoted by News 13 as saying.

Further, Deitiker told the TV station that he knows this incident can add an unnerving aspect for those visiting downtown.

“You know we do have a lot of folks on the street asking for money and it is kind of unnerving for someone not to get that money and then be attacked especially like that,” Deitiker was quoted by News 13 as saying.

Deitiker added that if one ever faces a situation where someone is aggressively asking for money, then always call the police.

“Let us know that’s there and that’s going on because a lot of times we don’t know it’s happening and we can go and we can take care of that issue,” he told News 13. “There’s a lot of different people that are out on the streets that are totally fine, I interact with them all the time, good people, it’s just certain situations like this where someone makes a terrible decision.”

In the aftermath, the APD stated in a press release that “anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact Asheville police” at (828) 252-1110. An anonymous tip can be submitted using the TIP2APD smartphone application (search “Asheville PD” in any app store) or by texting TIP2APD to 847411.

Meanwhile, Asheville Police Chief Mike Lamb answered questions and discussed the needle-stabbing incident during a June 20 interview on “First News” on Asheville radio station 570-AM, in a segment labeled “Asheville getting shabby,” as he was interviewed by host Mark Starling.

Contrary to the resulting podcast’s label of the segment as “Asheville getting shabby,” Lamb was positive about downtown in particular and Asheville in general in the interview.

Lamb noted that, while the APD is “still 58 officers down” from its budgeted workforce size, “I’m constantly amazed with the amount of work we get done. It really goes to the dedication of our detectives and forensics specialists...”

Starling then mentioned the needle-stabbing incident, noting that it is “a case that certainly is catching headlines, not only locally, but all across the country. I stopped counting after I reached 25 states....”

The radio show host then asked Lamb, “Was this person known to police?”

Yes, Lamb replied quickly. “Julien McArthur has been known to us for a while… He’s been charged with multiple offenses” that included “being violent... He’s been known to us for a long time…. for a lot of erratic behavior because of his addictions...”

However, the police chief added, McArthur, despite being repeatedly charged by the APD, has been set free — repeatedly — by the Buncombe court system.

“It’s difficult because we work to do the ‘charging’... I know the DA’s office is working very hard to hold these people accountable. We appreciate the partnership with the DA’s office — and I know it’s frustrating with them a lot of times” also.

Starling then asked, “Should there be a line that delineates ‘homelessness’ versus ‘vagrancy?’” Before Lamb could answer, the radio host also asserted that “there are (homeless) people who try to do the right thing, while others don’t.... Until we can make it so uncomfortable to be a vagrant in our society, do you think we’re just spinning our wheels?”

“Yes, the homeless are among the most victimized (residents of Asheville) — and they tell us they want to feel safe (too),” Lamb replied.

Regarding the needle-stabbing incident, Starling said, “This is not like it was on, like, ‘Chicken Alley.’ This was on Biltmore Avenue, arguably one of the most densely populated streets in downtown Asheville... This could have gone really, really bad in the other direction if someone had a concealed carry permit” and was attacked by McArthur.

Lamb agreed with Starling’s assessment and then added, “The sad thing is downtown (despite the violence) — it looks a lot better... Sometimes I walk around in plain clothes,” when off-duty, to scrutinize downtown’s appearance and theo optics for visitors. “Compared to 2021 or 2022, the atmosphere (downtown) is much better.”

Elsewhere, in a Feb. 21 interview, Lamb stated, “I encourage folks that think Asheville — downtown Asheville especially — is dangerous, to come out and walk around. Come out and see for yourselves — don’t take other people’s word at it. What I’m hearing regularly is there seeing better things downtown. Come out and see for yourselves.”

In the February interview, Lamb also said he was encouraging people “not necessarily to buy into a certain narrative or hype” about downtown being dangerous.

In News 13’s “Comment Bubble” after its story about the stabbing of a tourist with a hypodermic needle in downtown Asheville, the following were among the responses:

• IreneB — “He’ll be back on the street this week. Even if the police are able to respond immediately, the crime has already been committed; ready for another arrest.”

• AChildofGod — “I worked downtown Asheville from 1995 until 2011. It is crazy how much it changed from one year to the next. If the city council were not all liberals, this town could be amazing. They caused a majority of the law enforcement officers to leave and go to a city that would support them....

“A pay raise won’t change policy.

“People voted for those on city council — now they are reaping what they have sown.”

• WindRidge — “Why are customers not returning to downtown after only one visit?

“What could it be?

“How would the ultra safe zone enhanced surcharge circumvent this?

“Wait till the victim tells others what happened here and shows them a picture of a typical downtown dreg....”

• IreneB — “Please, please, please, vote in new members of our City Council who care more about the residents and tourists in Asheville than the homeless and repeating criminals. Council members with backbone that promote actual prosecution in our local court which affects everyone....”

• ScreenNames — “There was a missed opportunity for an immediate solution to the problem.”

• Captaincool — “Until we start voting out our liberal all women city council, nothing will change. Anyone with half a brain would’ve told you homeless people are homeless because of drugs, alcohol and mental issues. Constantly giving them free places to stay/food does not help — instead it enables them....”

• WNCNative — “Welcome to Trashville! Where the City Government wastes money in the 100s of thousands of dollars to tear down an Iconic monument instead of channeling funds where they would do the most good!”

Is it ‘over’ for Asheville? S.C. tourist stabbed in back with hypodermic needle by homeless  panhandler after refusing to give him money, police report states (2024)
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