Beignet, an 11-year-old mixed breed, was killed Monday at a north Asheville park. // Photo credit: The Mackie family

The brutal stabbing death of a dog Monday afternoon while its owner played pickleball at a north Asheville park has highlighted the city’s continuing struggles with aggressive, violent behaviors by seemingly unbalanced people, police and witnesses to the crime say.

James Wesley Henry, 43, faces a felony count of cruelty to animals and is being held in the Buncombe County Detention Center on a $10,000 secure bond, according to jail records and the Asheville Police Department.

James Wesley Henry // Photo credit: Asheville Police Department

The dog’s owner, north Asheville resident Liesbeth Mackie, said she brought her 11-year-old mixed breed, Beignet, to the park with her, as players often do. Mackie, a retired marketing manager, had secured the 35-pound dog with a leash long enough to allow the animal to lie comfortably in the shade.

At first, Mackie said, she and other players heard shouting from a wooded area near the Weaver Park tennis courts, which also double as pickleball courts. The man yelling was agitated and sounded extremely angry, possibly in some kind of argument, they thought, but when a player checked he found the man was alone.

The attack occurred in north Asheville’s Weaver Park. // Watchdog photo by Starr Sariego

Meanwhile, Beignet, a tawny-colored, white-pawed dog named after the New Orleans pastry of the same name by Mackie’s husband, a native of that city, lay placidly a few steps from the courts. The players thought the incident with the man was over.

“She was peacefully lying in the shade — she was tied up with a very long leash,” Liesbeth Mackie said as she sat in the bereavement room of the Animal Hospital of North Asheville late Monday afternoon. “Then my (pickleball) partner said, ‘Someone’s beating your dog.’”

Eric Hulin was one of the pickleball players on the court around 3 p.m. First he heard the loud, “pretty violent sounding language” coming from near the baseball fields. They resumed playing, but the attack quickly followed.

“All of a sudden, I noticed that there was some commotion happening with her dog,” Hulin said. “I saw the attacker, definitely with all of his strength — with what I thought at the time was a closed fist — slamming on the dog, really.”

It was so brutal Hulin wasn’t exactly sure what was happening.

Another player started walking toward the attacker. Hulin turned back to check on Beignet.

“There was blood everywhere”

“I turned and looked at the dog, and saw its last couple of yelps and twitches,” Hulin said. “It was covered in blood. There was blood everywhere. It took me a moment because I wasn’t sure what happened.”

When Hulin got close to the man, “he started walking away quite casually like nothing even happened.”

Liesbeth Mackie had secured her 35-pound dog with a leash long enough to allow the pooch to lie comfortably in the shade. The attack occurred near where she was playing pickleball. // Watchdog photo by Starr Sariego

Hulin never saw a knife, but Zen Sutherland, another pickleball player, did. While Hulin followed the attacker in his car, Sutherland, a 68-year-old West Asheville resident, pursued him on foot, keeping a safe distance.

Sutherland also had seen and heard the man, who was carrying two bags and “yelling at himself, or the world or the injustices of life or whatever.”

Beignet, Sutherland said, was a “very chill” dog and was relaxing in the shade when the man approached about four or five minutes after the bout of yelling. Another player alerted them that the man was attacking the dog, and Sutherland said he and several other players “ran out there.”

“The guy who did the stabbing was briskly walking away,” Sutherland said. “I took it upon myself to chase after the guy, with space, down to Luella’s (restaurant).”

He said the man knew he was following him, so Sutherland told him they’d already called the police. Sutherland, Hulin and a man on a bike were pursuing the attacker. 

Sutherland saw the man drop a knife with a black handle on the sidewalk. He noticed the man’s hand was bleeding, and he had blood on his foot.

When the police arrived, Sutherland said, the man surrendered peacefully.

Sutherland, a well-known artist who’s lived in Asheville for 23 years, said he thinks the incident highlights several of the complex issues Asheville is facing, including a dearth of mental health care, rampant drug abuse and persistent homelessness.

“I recognized that he was angry with the world and he had a problem with people following him, but at the same time, I thought, ‘What can I do? What can I do as a person?’” he said.

As part of Asheville Watchdog’s 12-part Down Town series, dozens of business owners and workers said in February and March that they had noticed an uptick of violent, aggressive behavior in the downtown area, and that many of them and their workers felt unsafe. The city initiated a 60-day program that involved higher police presence downtown, but the area continues to struggle with an inadequate mental health system, an influx of hard drugs such as methamphetamine that contribute to aggressive behavior, and a police force that’s down by 40 percent.

The whole incident, Sutherland says, is overwhelmingly sad.

“It’s sad for the dog, it’s sad for Liesbeth, it’s sad for him,” Sutherland said.

“I can’t get the image out of my head”

“I can’t get the image out of my head,” Hulin said of what he saw the man doing to the dog. 

It turned out the man was wielding a knife in his fist.

“The guy killed the dog with a knife, basically eviscerating it,” Asheville Police Capt. Michael Lamb said.

Lamb said witnesses told officers the man had been acting erratically near the tennis courts, before he “came over to the dog and started slashing at it with a knife.” The dog bit the man, but Lamb said the man initiated the attack.

“We’ve had over the last couple of months, whether it’s mental health, addiction or both, we have seen a lot of that erratic behavior around town,” Lamb said. “Typically, this is not something we’ve seen in the Weaver Park/north Asheville area, but it is starting to seemingly spread out.”

Weaver Park is about 1.5 miles from downtown.

Mackie is adamant that the attack on her dog was “unprovoked.” Part of the heartbreak, she said, is that Beignet “didn’t realize he meant her harm.” In short, she was defenseless.

As she spoke, Beignet’s body lay under a blanket that hid a gash to her neck. Blood was visible on the blanket beneath her, and on the sleeve of Mackie’s shirt.

Beignet enjoyed retrieving the daily newspaper. // Photo credit: The Mackie family

Mackie said her husband, Tom, a pilot, got Beignet at an adoption event at a local park when the pup was just six weeks old.

“I told my husband, ‘You can get whatever you want, but don’t bring home a puppy,” Mackie said with a smile.

But when their two daughters joined forces with Mackie’s husband, it was all over. Beignet became part of the family, the kind of dog that wouldn’t let Liesbeth Mackie out of her sight and loved their two daughters and their son.

Late Monday, Liesbeth Mackie was still processing the attack, and the death of the family’s beloved dog. The Mackies have been in Asheville since 2009, and while Liesbeth Mackie said they’ve noticed improvements downtown over the past few weeks, she also understands the concerns about aggressive and erratic behaviors.

“It’s so random — that’s when it becomes scary,” Mackie said. “Are we still safe to bring our dogs to pickleball?”

Mackie’s husband, Tom, was much more blunt. He said he’s distraught but also angry, particularly with Asheville’s liberal government, which he believes has failed the city. They’re addressing more esoteric issues such as reparations and the removal of the Vance Monument downtown while the city continues a downward spiral, he said.

“The city government and the mayor have my dog’s blood on their hands,” Tom Mackie said. “Asheville is no longer safe.”

He feels like the attack could easily have been even more tragic.

“The way our dog was savagely murdered, it could have been my wife. It could have been a kid,” Tom Mackie said. “The crime in Asheville is spreading out like a cancer.”

Henry was arrested in Buncombe County 16 times from 2010 to 2022, all on misdemeanor charges, primarily drug and alcohol offenses and second-degree trespassing, according to jail booking data. He was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon in 2016 and three times booked on a charge of simple affray, generally defined as fighting in public that causes others to be afraid. The outcomes of the charges were unavailable late Monday.

The Mackies’ family friend, Elizabeth Byrd, was one of several friends comforting Mackie at the animal hospital Monday evening. An Asheville native whose family goes back five generations here, Byrd said, “It breaks my heart” to see what’s been going on in Asheville recently.

“When someone is mentally ill, they need a system in place (for care), but you can’t control a huge population,” Byrd said.

The Mackies moved to Asheville from Miami for the mountains, the hiking, the views. But now, their world has been shaken. 

“It makes me feel very vulnerable,” Liesbeth Mackie said. “We want them to get the help they need, but there’s a difference when they become violent and take it out on an innocent.”

Asheville Watchdog reporter Sally Kestin contributed to this report.

Asheville Watchdog is a nonprofit news team producing stories that matter to Asheville and surrounding communities. John Boyle has been covering western North Carolina since the 20th century. You can reach him at (828) 337-0941, or via email at

139 replies on “Bizarre stabbing death of dog at north Asheville park shakes local family, community”

  1. For the love of God, how many people and animals have to be stabbed before the city of Asheville will do something? Mentally ill, on drugs, evil, whatever they are, lock them up and let the doctors see them in jail if there are no other facilities available. Lock them the hell up and get treatment for them if that’s what it takes. There’s no reason residents have to be afraid of getting stabbed or attacked at parks, downtown or anywhere else they go. It’s beyond ridiculous.

    1. Our Mayor says this is happening everywhere. I’m sorry, this is NOT happening everywhere. It is happening in Asheville because we refuse to enforce laws and create boundaries. Esther Manheimer will realize later she played this wrong and that the legacy she is left is one of mismanagement. No one is celebrating Portand’s or San Fran’s leadership. It has ruined their cities and many lives. We need to address the access to easy street drugs and 90% of this problem will go away. We are not doing a favor to these drug-addicted vagrants. This poor family will not recover from this brutal and avoidable incident.

      1. Unfortunately, it IS happening everywhere, even small towns across the country. Are you not watching the news or reading articles from around the country and world? Your thoughts that it’s an Asheville only problem, and that it’s all on the mayor’s desk are misguided. Do read up on who actually can legally take action on these things in Asheville and Buncombe County and North Carolina. This is a terrible story and you are correct that we must do something, but playing the blame game without knowing what’s what, is no use to anyone.
        And…thank you to Ronald Reagan for having a heavy hand in deregulating mental health treatment, and letting decades of sick people out on the street without access to treatment.

        1. Thank you for this insightful comment. The crime rate in many rural, deep-red counties around Asheville is far higher than it is in Asheville, but nobody seems to care about that. I wonder why? Maybe because so many people on these threads have no interest in solutions or helping anyone. They care about owning the libs for their sad entertainment, and if things were perfect they wouldn’t have anything to do (or they’d just invent another thing to complain about).

          1. I scanned the surrounding counties for a story of a deranged individual stabbing a dog to death so badly the sheriff described it as “eviscerated”.
            I didn’t find any. Asheville is run by Democrats. That’s your problem.

          2. Please provide the links to the higher crime rates in rural (deep red) your words areas. The FBI’s national crime statistics sure does disagree.

        2. You’re reaching and part of the problem. It is the mayor’s problem because I can attest as I have lived here for decades that this is NOT Asheville. I don’t care where else in the country it is taking place, it did not take place here, to this degree until about 6 years ago. Just stop it. Our Mayor is in the position to help allocate funds for mental health programs and claim they have resources in place. Where are they? Where is the federal money going?

          1. It’s not about drugs. It’s about a lack of mental health treatment facilities. I’ve seen patients leave HCA barefoot and carrying their belongings in a bag. There is no option for folx who are suffering through untreated mental health issues. None.

        3. It doesn’t matter where else this is happening or that several U.S. Presidents, beginning with Kennedy, pushed for the deinstitutionalization of those mentally ill folks deemed by various professionals to be harmless.
          The point is that it’s happening here and now! Our local elected officials are directly responsible for initiating the necessary actions to keep our community safe.

          1. The citizens of Asheville elected these officials. I imagine they will elect the same in 2024.

        4. Many were released with no real plan for them to get the help they needed. So it’s the streets, and jail, often for many times. People who don’t want to pay on the front end (mental health services) end by paying on the back end for jails and prisons.

        5. The act Reagan repealed was less than a year old.
          While there’s no way to tell what effects it may have had if it were allowed to stand, it’s fair to say there was little change in policy affecting the mentally ill.

        6. The fact that this is happening elsewhere does not excuse the aberrant behavior of the assailant and that of the mayor trying to normalize despicable actions. Your apparently have no problem with the blame game when it comes to Ronald Reagan. Violent actors do not belong on the streets where they repeat their actions. Prison is appropriate, although I do sympathize with the death penalty comment.

        7. The deregulation of mental health issues was begun long before Reagan, as I recently learned when yet another person wanted to blame a republican for democrat run city issues. Asheville is a sewer because of their liberal policies, just like LA/SF/Seattle?etc. and no manner of pointing the finger the other direction will erase that.

        8. This is what happens in a morally permissive society, where the law is disrespected and ignored. Until we can get back to some solid morality, and there are plenty of things we can all agree are wrong, this will continue.

        9. In fact, it is not “happening everywhere.” In my town, a Midwestern a suburb of 45,000, this never happens. Why? Because we arrest people who cause disturbances, and they are locked away. What they look like is irrelevant – you vandalize, harm or otherwise threaten, you are put away. THAT happens more often than tragedies like this. The common denominator? The part of the majority. If Asheville wants to know why this and similar occurrences are on the rise – look in the mirror.

      2. Thing is I dont CARE that is is happening everywhere! I care what is happening HERE! Wish our mayor and city/county governments did!

    2. There’s no money to facilitate your proposal. But don’t worry – we’ll find the money to promote degeneracy, erase history and pay ‘reparations’. It’ll all be better if you just let us have our way.

      Signed – Your Elected Rulers.

    1. This is an important question. Can the media please keep us informed on this issue? I personally be there when he is in court and decisions are being made as to his release/future

  2. “Are we still safe to bring our dogs to pickleball?” Asheville needs to get over itself. Horrific story, but that’s the concern? Dogs at pickleball? Maybe don’t bring your dog places where you can’t keep an eye on it.

    1. jenny, I think the point you are missing is we should be able to bring our pets to places and NOT have to worry about them or ourselves being stabbed to death by an unhinged individual with i believe 16 arrests in the last 12 yrs. It is not about pickleball, It is about not being able to go anywhere anymore without being on heightened alert to danger coming to get us at any moment from anyone.

      1. This is so sad and infuriating this family has lost a beloved family member to the cruel actions of someone who obviously isn’t mentally stable yet still walking freely through Asheville when will our local government actually do something other then try to find a way to pay for these people to have a home, how about we find a way to get them in treatment whether that be at a mental facility or jail this needs to stop, we have to make our voices heard enough is enough

      2. Then volunteer. Create groups of volunteers to support mental health care. Go to the groups that provide grants and let them know that this is vital to community health. Visit Copestone and detention facilities. Medicaid expansion was recently passed in NC. Tell your representatives that there must be a program created that covers mental health for indigent folk. It doesn’t happen quickly. It takes every single voice.

    2. Would you feel the same if it were your 2-year-old child in one of Asheville’s parks or playgrounds? This tolerance of the unhinged “Walking Dead” in Asheville must be stopped, and I have to wonder if all of the non-profit assistance available here isn’t enabling, rather than correcting the problem.

      1. I was in Pack Square at the splash park in late afternoon this Sunday watching the children at play in the fountains. A shirtless man who was apparently mentally unstable approached the pool several times acting erratically. One parent spoke to him and he retreated, then the now shoeless man returned a few minutes later and entered the pool. The parents watched cautiously before calling their children out of the pool and leaving. His presence in the pool with such young children was concerning given his unpredictable behavior. Families left the park rather than confront him, as did I. Life on these sweltering streets is certainly hard, and homelessness is not a crime but unstable persons don’t mix well with children at play.

      2. You don’t need to wonder. “Enabling” – with the city’s blessing – is the perfect explanation for the situation. Ground 0 will be relocating near the police station on Haywood Road soon.

      3. There is no non-profit program that supports treatment for mental health. The VA has programs for Veterans. Medicaid in NC does not have an assistance program for just mental health for adults. The only option for health care coverage is being found disabled. In NC, that takes years. What do you propose?

      4. All citizens have to demand ‘broken window’ policing to stop this trend. When law enforcement emphasis going after even the little things, the bigger things are a lot less likely to happen.
        Of course this means supporting your law enforcement (shudder) and employing enough of them to be effective.

        Less military gear/equipment and more boots on the pavement.

    3. Blaming the victim makes one feel a random act of violence would never happen to them, “ if only….. “

      Innocent people, pets included, are all vulnerable when people who behave erratically and violently are loose on the streets. This could happen to any of us, and does.

    4. Ok, play it your way. Some people have dogs, others have kids. Maybe we shouldn’t take our kids to parks anymore for fear they’ll be stabbed. Happy now? You need to get over yourself. Have a nice day. 🙂

    5. So you are fully confident that the insaniac who killed the dog won’t kill a little boy or an adult next time? Or maybe you think we should not envision that until he DOES IT… Then we can put him away for life? The actual solution that is best for the attacker AND the rest of us is involuntary committment to a psychiatric facility for detox, evaluation, and , if possible, treatment. If he doesn’t respond to treatment he needs to be committed for life.

    6. That is a first world problem and we are no longer a first world country. You left out that the man mentioned a kid and his wife as well, and he is correct in all 3 instances.

  3. This is frightening! Hiding these people in apts or their own homes, costing the taxpayer millions, WILL NOT fix the problem and the ongoing hiring of groups to “investigate” homelessness WILL NOT fix the problem. Affordable housing placing seniors, handicapped, etc. into housing with these people WILL NOT fix the problem and is not fair to those seniors, handicapped, etc. We need to stop coddling these people. Vote new more conservative politicians into office to take a stand against enabling these transients or next time that attack could be on you or your child!

    1. Gail, Conservative politicians are the ones who have taken money away from mental health issues ! They privatized Institutes, why you ask? So that they and their cronies could enrich themselves off of the citizenry.

      1. 100%. Where are all the churches who help the poor & homeless with mental health issues. There’s a church on every other corner here. Closing mental health facilities has brought this on. We, NC and the entire country, are dealing with the result of poor management of mental health crisis. We need to create a system for ongoing, chronic mental health treatment that includes inpatient care.

      2. Wrong. Demonrats controlled congress during this one of many cloward and piven strategies that the demonrats are using

      3. This is factually false. It began long before Reagan, not to mention that in the term this OMNIBUS passed, the House was led by a democrat and the House is where bills are first crafted.

        Just more revisionist history on display.

    2. Conservative actually has nothing to do with it. Until the Federal Government rescinds all the chaos that conservative, Ronald Reagan, unfolded upon the Nation by getting rid of most mental health institutions and access with his deregulations, we are all stuck with the growing mental health crisis. And the drugs: just can’t believe that decades and decades pass without the ability to stop the imports of the vast majority of this problem.

      1. In other words, “conservative” has everything to do with it, as long as there’s a way to lay the problem at the feet of a conservative who’s been out of office for 35 years. Amazing that none of the presidents since then have been able to do anything about it.

        1. They can’t even get their blame correct about the past, there is not way they are prepared to deal with the present or future.

    3. Conservative politicians are responsible for this problem and the continuing failure to address it. They need to start working with Democrats to fund solutions for mental health services.

  4. Such a terrible loss of life for this poor pup. My condolences to the grieving owners.
    The city of Asheville has morphed into a dangerous place to live and work since the hiring of the county manager and poor leadership. Once Asheville was ripped of it’s beautiful historical monuments, due to out-of-state protesters, the city has sunk into a pit mired in filth that no one is likes anymore. Asheville used to be such a beautiful city. Now it’s a cesspool of crime. It’s not safe for humans or dogs resting quietly in a park in broad daylight. I’m completely disgusted by what our hometown has become.

  5. My heart goes out to the Mackie’s. As a owner of three, I can only imagine what the family is going through.
    I am an Asheville native. I believe in helping the homeless but these panhandlers are only buying more drugs and will only trash wherever they are “living”.
    The city of Asheville should prohibit panhandling on the roads and medians. Instead of spending millions on buying property for the homeless, open facilities for the addicted to receive help. If they refuse the help then incarcerate them. After all they are buying illegal drugs.
    Asheville should not allow the dogs of the panhandlers to be on the medians in the hot sun. Isn’t that animal cruelty?

  6. This life altering incident is beyond distressing. I’ve lived in N Asheville not quite a year and as part of the pickleball community and on occasion bring my dog to the courts as well. I have vivid memories at Weaver seeing a woman shoot up and act in a drug induced episode on the very bench in this picture. That too is an image that haunted me. I play with Liesbeth, Eric and Zen and my heart goes out to all of them and Liesbeth’s (and Tom’) family.

  7. I do not even know what to say anymore. I am becoming numb to the world around me. I have lost my faith in the human race and am shocked by ” the new normal”. Every year I find myself withdrawing more and more from interacting with people. And I am not sad about that really. I know that this is a country wide problem not exclusive to Asheville, but that does not mean that Ashevillians’ have to accept this and just shrug at the problems facing us while saying ” oh well, it isn’t just us, it is everywhere”. I feel that the point of no return has been reached, and it is sad that this is where we are now as a society.

  8. This man is not from Asheville & is a repeat offender. Past behavior is a predictor of future behavior. Our catch and release system is a failure.

  9. It will be interesting to read some of the ‘affordable housing solves all problems’ comments that are sure to come from the deluded masses who believe that this violent offender would make a decent neighbor. My deep condolences to the Mackies.

    1. RG, affordable housing will solve many problems but we also need funding for mental health services to deal with people such as this man. If you’re not hearing that, you’re simply not listening.

  10. Unbelievable! When are citizens in this town going to get the protection we pay for! This City council is the worst body of individuals! The mayor only worries about more hotels! We need the state and the sherrif office to take over the city!

    1. The man has been arrested multiple times dating back to 2010. Seems like law enforcement has had plenty of chances to give the protection you pay for. How is that the mayor’s fault?

  11. The criminals are winning. We are losing. The “progressives” applaud the collapse of civilization.

    1. Interesting take considering Buncombe County ranks 8th for violent death and 6th in homicide rate among WNC counties. All ahead of it, incidentally, are “conservative.”

      1. I will take your word on your stats on WNC Ron, But Robert did have one thing right, “The criminals are winning. We are losing”. I am tired of folks trying to blame either liberals or conservatives for what is a country wide problem. At the end of the day, it is OUR fault that we are failing as a society. We have allowed ourselves to be pitted against each other by politicians who care more about their twitter accts. and endless investigations into each other, while we suffer the consequences of drugs, crime, homelessness, and an all around civil discourse the likes that has not been seen since the freaking civil war. We are going to repeat history folks, because WE are allowing it.

        1. I know the Mackeys. Wonderful people. I’m so sorry about this terrible experience and their lovely dog.
          Let’s please quit blaming right, left, conservative or liberal and start working together.
          I have worked in mental health for 40 years. We used to have these places called Community Mental Health Clinics. They were great places for interns to get their hours and for the mentally ill to get good affordable care.
          It’s a big societal problem from coast to coast, that needs to be addressed.
          My heart aches for the Mackeys.

      2. 100%. Up there in fomestic violence and child abuse as well. Didn’t AVL just have a deputy arrested that was found to be part of a human trafficking ring? It’s not new – it’s just more visible.

    2. Painting with a broad brush, are we? I think many of the appalled people here are probably “progressives.” What do you describe as the collapse? Is it equality? Anyone that isn’t a believer in mythology? But, this is anti-social media, so opinions are truth.

  12. Kudos for actually covering this horrifying crime. So far, I’ve seen nothing in ACT or WLOS, which is not at all surprising. I am surprised that the crackerjack journalists at the Asheville Blade haven’t yet tried to spin this into an “Itinerant Urban Outdoorsman Holy Man Defends His Life From Sleeping Dog” story. Perhaps they are too busy in court fighting their $100.00 fine.

  13. Of course I am saddened, but I am also furious that this lovely dog, who I have shared the pleasure of hiking with over the years, was violently ripped apart while resting in the shade of a tree waiting for its owner to complete a game of pickle ball. The family is grieving while trying to make sense of this horrific event that never should have happened.
    I have loved visiting this beautiful town over the years, however my sister and I noticed a very definite shift in the vibe while waiting for an Uber following a lovely late dinner at Curate downtown. We were not comfortable on the street having strolled the city while waiting for our table before dinner.
    I invited my family, including an elderly mother with compromised ability to walk, to join us here.
    I am rethinking that decision. If they do come, am I jeopardizing their safety by going into town to shop and enjoy the many good restaurants here?
    I may advise them to cancel their flights and stay home.

    1. I agree with your level of discomfort on our sidewalks now. I live a few blocks from downtown and am no longer a pedestrian. No only is it unsafe starting at dusk, there is more and more occurring in daylight hours. What is alarming is that many distressing encounters are with individuals who are in the throes of their addiction and are unpredictable. There is not a way to communicate boundaries or requests to not disturb you because they are not lucid. I work in the mental health field and with addiction specifically. Many people I meet are wanting help and to find alternate ways to cope with their struggles. Asheville is in dire need of more community services and funding towards mental health. The police would never be able to handle the acute needs each of these individuals have. My brother struggles with schizophrenia and the APD have been wonderful in their treatment of him and have upheld the law. There is only so much that they can do. IVC to Mission and then it’s Mission who releases him back on the streets to harass again. It’s frustrating that there is not a system in place to hold him accountable for taking his meds, or better yet, he needs to be in a facility where he can begin to establish a way of life while living with his disease and under the watchful care of professionals. Insurance won’t pay for that. Is there even a place like this in existence. It’s a larger problem of people who were at one time very similar to you and I.

  14. I am so very sorry for the loss of this beautiful dog. My heart goes out to the family. What a horrific tragedy. I have lived near Weaver Park for 40 years and it has been a great asset to our neighborhood and city, well maintained by city services and hosting a variety of activities. Yes, things are definitely changing for the worse. It feels almost impossible to think of one answer to the dilemma of violent people with mental illness. A police patrol may or may not have been present when this man was at the park. A coordinated public safety infrastructure should exist and be publicly promoted, with informational signs posted at all parks, such that when folks notice a person acting erratically they could immediately call a rapid response team skilled in mental health crises and public safety…perhaps if the folks who initially noticed this man’s unstable behavior could have had such a resource, this tragedy might have been averted. Does this resource already exist? If so, get the word out better, if not, why not?

    1. Thanks, Anne. I think we do need such a rapid response team skilled in mental health available to assess a troubling situation without escalation.

    2. There are law enforcement and other similar folks that have completed Crisis Intervention Training. When you call for support, ask for a CIT officer when it involves mental illness, addiction, or intellectual/developmental disabilities.

        1. No always. I have the APD non-emergency number as well as the Mobile Crisis Management saved on my phone.
          APD: (828) 252-1110
          Mobile Crisis: (888) 573-1006
          Help individuals who are in need.

  15. I don’t understand why this is allowed to occur. If people can not function in society, then need to be removed from society until they receive the help they need.

    1. That is the best “solution” I’ve read. Both beneficial to the ill person and to society.

  16. If you’re capable of committing violence against a dog, you’re capable of committing violence against a child. Shame on the Asheville’s liberal city government! The very same people who supported defunding the police are the ones who have coddled and enabled the criminals in this city.

    1. The “defund the police” trope is right up there with “the election was stolen,” and “we didn’t land on the moon.” What is irksome is the number of people who have joined various cults that continue to grab onto phrases ie death panels, Obamacare (instead of the Affordable Care Act), and “defunding the police” to blindly parrot the positions of their leaders who absolutely care nothing about them. Who only care about their own power. But, sure, liberal city government, defunding the police, coddling and enabling criminals. Meanwhile, you may be shot while being Black.

  17. Tom Mackie has it exactly right. Our diverse, inclusive, and equitable city government has totally failed us. Virtue signaling—reparations and tearing down monuments—and ignoring what really ails our city.

    1. They’re not very diverse, actually. Neither are they inclusive–as you can see if you watch them tuning out longtime residents during council meetings. It’s an insiders’ club of faux progressives with little real-world experience.

  18. This is horrible. People can’t pickleball and dogs can’t go to a park. The vibe in Asheville has certainly been inching toward creepy for the last several years. I guess they hope all the tourists with beer goggles won’t notice it. That whole Grove Park Inn group overdose thing was weird too. It’s not even a nice or safe place to live or visit anymore. It’s basically become a hyped up tourist trap with a horrible hospital to boot. The only thing its got going for it is the natural beauty of the mountains for now, the rest is a man made mess.

    1. It’s also infuriating that the white tourists who OD’ed at the Grove Park last year got a pass. No follow-ups, no written statements from the TDA and/or mayor saying that everyone must be held accountable, even felonious visitors. What would happen if I rented a room at the Grove Park and let a bunch of impoverished people of color OD on fentanyl and put a strain on our limited law enforcement? The Grove Park used to be a lovely world-class landmark, but no more. Same as this city.

      1. first of all a group of visibly impoverished people of color wouldn’t have made it past the front desk without security hauling them off, but I hear what you’re saying.

  19. This whole push to clean up downtown in such a patchy attempt has predictably only pushed the problems to the outlying areas. You don’t have to be a homeless consultant or sociologist to see that. I’m sad for the family and the dog. Enforcing panhandling is not the answer either, that just makes us all more vulnerable. People get even more desperate when they don’t have money for food or drugs or whatever.

    1. No. No money, no buying drugs. It’s that simple. We need to make this city less hospitable to them . Period. In every way

      1. It really is not that simple. I understand what you’re saying and if that would stop people from buying drugs I would agree, but the rules of addiction prove otherwise. There are other forms of currency in the drug trade. It’s not always a cash business and trades are welcome. All kinds of trades and bartering. Back in the day there were lots of meth labs here. It’s so easy to get now that people don’t even need to make their own. The opiate problem created by big pharma and greedy doctors and pharmacies opened the door to the heroin problem. People get on meth to get off opiates. Now throw fentanyl into the mix. It’s a revolving door that won’t stop if you write tickets for panhandling. They won’t show up in court and don’t have the money to pay the ticket anyway. A warrant is issued and then they’re locked up for 5 minutes and let out, cops are using their limited resources to round up panhandlers while the violent ones wreak havoc. Makes no sense. You can try outlaw panhandling but if there are no resources to enforce the law, then what?

    2. Yes, Sanford you are correct. North Asheville is the recipient of all the downtown people being pushed out and it’s unnerving. We did not have this challenge on this scale even one year ago.

      1. Not just N Asheville, EM. I have seen an increase on patton/smokey park hwy. in W Asheville and also on New Leicester Hwy. in the Mornings especially. I also suspect that this “downtown initiative” is nothing more than a shell game. The city is pushing them out of downtown for summer /fall tourist season.

  20. Lack of leadership and vision for the city disguised as “welcoming, open, free thinking, and inclusive….” All code words for “We ain’t got a clue.” The Mayor and City Council are an SLN parody. You feed stray cats, you simply attract more cats and become a collection plate for the criminally unhinged. Gave up on Asheville on my last LaZoom Tour as we passed under a bridge where a “person who lacks housing” was naked and masterbating for all of us to see. We all thought it was part of the show.

  21. I am shocked after reading this. My heart breaks for this innocent dog and its family. I have always loved Asheville, but haven’t visited in several years. I remember one visit, probably 15 years ago, turning off one of the main downtown streets just because I like to explore. Within seconds drug dealers approached my car thinking I was there to make a purchase. This was early evening in the middle of downtown! After reading the comments here, it sounds like things have gotten worse, not better. I believe my next visit to the beautiful NC mountains will be somewhere other than Asheville, meaning my tourism dollars will be spent elsewhere. Asheville had a great thing going. Its leadership better step up its game or tourism will be a thing of the past.

  22. Absolutely sickening! I myself had a knife pulled out on me while walking my dog on the reed creek Greenway last month, 10 am on a Sunday morning. It sickens me that this has happened and makes me think of how it could have been me. THESE PEOPLE NEED TO GO!!! I’m not sure where, but it is not only the government but the regular people who are making this town hospitable to them by feeding them, NOT completely breaking up there camps, giving them money when they panhandle etc. The drugs that are inducing this “mental illness” aren’t free. STOP SUPPORTING THIS. absolutely heart breaking 💔

  23. Well, I North Carolina it was the legislature that decided that the open market could better care for the mentally ill than the state institutions. That was in the ’90’s under a Democratically dominated legislature.

    But the ultimate cause of the problem is a lack of LEADERSHIP, LEADERSHIP, and LEADERSHIP at all levels of government.

    I wonder what the outcome would have been had someone carrying a gun had shot the man who stabbed the dog? Can I protect my pets from assault?

  24. The problem of irrational behavior like this is not because of Manheimer. It is because for people like this who suffer from paranoid schizophrenia there are no places for them to go. They keep them for 5 days at Copestone and they are released with no medication and no plan for follow up. They need extended care and need follow up care for virtually the rest of their lives. It is not that they are dangerous, they are mentally ill and there is 0 help. I am so sorry this happened. I am a dog lover too and cannot fantom how angry this family must feel about their beloved pet’s horrible death. I extend my sincerest condolences to all of them.

    1. Yes, agreed, I predict it will only get worse once HCA opens their new behavorial health location. If the way they are running the hospital now is any indication, it won’t land well.

  25. Our city continues to slide further into the abyss. I was driving into downtown earlier today and seen a group of drugged out folks on broadway yelling at cars and a shopping cart full of garbage chained to the broadway street sign…all while a city sanitation truck just wheels by. Such a great first impression for those coming to visit our once fun and safe city.

  26. I’m so sorry for this family’s loss. I operate a business on Tunnel Rd and on the past few months I have had employees quit because of getting approached while heading to their cars by homeless people asking for money or food and getting very irate when they are told no. Asheville is not a safe place anymore. The stories coming out of Carrier Park are the same as well. No one is going to do anything about any of this. This county has a budget to deal with all of this and nothing has been put into motion. Where is this money going? Why is it only getting worse?

  27. Hard to imagine the heartbreak of this family. Guess AVL voting to pay slavery reparations didn’t satisfy ol’ Henry. Expect a lot more of this to come. I lived most of my life in SF and watched it decay into the pure hellscape you see today. Asheville is on the same path. We’ll visit you all now and again but prefer to sleep soundly at night in a neighboring Republican county.

    1. Good. Stay away. I spent a lot of my life in SF too. I try to do good,
      not spew red or blue.

      1. I’m so sick of everything being divided between two political parties. It’s a mask people wear when they have no backbone or developed moral compass of their own. Powerless individuals searching for meaning in their lives by white-knuckling the confused and hypocritical values of a larger group. Complain behind a screen and thinking they’ve done God’s work for the day.

  28. My condolences to the family for their loss. The most telling thing about this is the first word in John Boyle’s piece: Bizarre. You can posit conservatives will solve all the problems of every city and state in the U.S. (though history proves otherwise), or liberals are the reason civilization is collapsing, but the bottom line is the headline.

    1. Well said. If only we could the far right and the far left to move a little bit closer to one another (and reason)…

  29. You can’t just move damaged people to other locations and expect a better outcome. Many are making it about race, the monuments, the reparations, while they just dug up a graveyard of slaves last week. Others are making it about Dems or Repubs. Mental Illness treatment in this country is abysmal. As is most healthcare. The fact is all politicians of both parties have failed NC miserably for years. State and local. Our congressional reps have left much to be desired. Asheville has a long history of public corruption. Teachers and cops are paid peanuts. Service workers are barely hanging on. The AG dumps a hospital horror show on us, walks away and runs for governor. Drugs and violence are rampant. Working people cannot afford to live here anymore. Everyone is distracted by the real issues and now fighting over genders. WLOS is owned by big Media. The AC-T is owned by big Media. If it weren’t for the watchdog we would be in the dark. The dog story has generated more comments than any other on the AVL watchdog if I am not mistaken. Keep speaking up, even if we don’t agree on what caused it or how to fix it we can all agree it needs to be fixed. There are solutions, other cities that have found ways to turn it around but Asheville is stuck in the mud doing the same old thing expecting different results. The watchdog has provided a platform to change things and appears to be the only one trying to confront it head on. Thank you for listening to my Ted Talk.

  30. Such a sick way for this poor animal to lose its life!!!
    This guy is more than likely another totally unstable drug addict roaming the streets of Asheville causing harm to whatever gets in his way.
    Our clueless city leaders need to find a way to get these these drug addicts in medical settings where they can be isolated and get treatment.
    Taking them off the streets destroys the narcotics marketplace and sends a strong message about civilized behavior.
    Time to stop coddling these clowns and take some action!

  31. Apparently this dog murderer, James Wesley Henry, was mentally well enough to know that he did something wrong when he murdered the Mackies precious member of their family, Beignet. How do we know that? Because he tried to flee the scene without being caught. If some bleeding heart pays his $10,000 bail it would be nice to notify the public as to his whereabouts. Real JUSTICE would initially be to give the Mackies the choice of how murderer James Henry should be punished.

    1. HOW do we track the status of the murderer? Hearing dates, release, whereabouts. This needs ongoing current info, for our protection. AND our pets.

  32. there was a woman who spoke at the last council meeting. her idea was to set up a designated camp in one place with measures in place for security and oversight. basically a regulated campground for the homeless or a refugee camp, but that’s where were at, might as well face it. we have a bunch of unregulated camps all over the city. it’s worth considering. It’s being done in other cities now. We can’t keep doing nothing. the dog killer is another matter all together. im just talking about the homeless problem in general.

    1. One big area, in Death Valley, unreachable by foot. Saves on security. Sheriff Arapaio in AZ demonstrated that it is possible to feed, clothe, house, provide basic medical care for, and CONTAIN (unnecessary in this example) folks for a couple of dollars per day each. Using such a system, we could care for the entire country’s homeless on the budget for the poor of just NYC.

  33. The brutality of this incident is incredibly disturbing. I’m very sorry for this family’s loss. Thank goodness for those that ensured this deranged man was arrested. Knife, arrest record, broad daylight, eviscerated, children’s park— it’s beyond not acceptable. The only thing I’ve heard so far is an outcry from this community and one response– from Sage Turner regarding addressing this cycle (thank you). The news of this story is clear across the country. Devastating.

  34. “Sutherland, a well-known artist who’s lived in Asheville for 23 years, said he thinks the incident highlights several of the complex issues Asheville is facing…”

    LOL! There’s nothing ‘complex’ about the issue, it is the direct result of liberalism.

  35. You get the quality of law enforcement you vote for. Asheville has been an unsavory place to visit now for almost two decades. I drive through all the time and never stop anymore. It used to be a fun place to visit, now it’s just sad.

  36. President Kennedy started releasing inmates from mental health facilities because drugs were available to control their outbursts. The problem is that many people who were released with mental health problems do not take the drugs because the drugs make them lethargic. Another problem is that low cost “street drugs” are readily available which alter people’s moods (which is why they take them).

  37. Very sad story my condolences to everyone involved. This should have never happened! Dogs are man’s best friend and I’m sure this dog was not suspecting this criminal would attack him.

    On a side note, I appreciate the skill of this writer, this story was well written and thorough.

  38. I am stunned by the lazy stupidity and immorality espoused by people today, even as they condescend at others while patting themselves on the back. The comments here are proof. So ronnie raygun is to blame, not local and state leaders? pffft, nonsense. Instead of running your mouths, how about this “novel idea”? Pick up a copy of your Federal and State constitutions…get a dummy version if you must. Learn them. How about not voting for dirtbags who will “solve all your problems” (not their place to do so)? The problem with society is not the pols, they are a mirror of YOU, because you voted for them. How about getting involved in local govt (but…but you “don’t have time”…)? How about getting rid of pols the minute they go back on their campaign promises (“read my lips….no…new…taxes”)? Or when they stir up racial hatred (ebama and MANY more)?
    And for all you “I’ve lived here a long time and this NEVER used to happen!” crowd? Be quiet or stick your head back in the sand. Having owned a business in W. Avl 15 yrs ago, I can tell you this evil has been happening, and will continue to get worse, until you learn what decency, civility, morality and RESPONSIBILITY look like: you don’t, no matter how much you screech. I can tell you how 15 yrs ago, I had to sweep up drug needles DAILY in a “respectable area” of W. Avl. I can tell you of the armed robberies, open air drug markets and larcenies that occurred regularly. Remember the city councilman (perhaps the “whitest man in America”) who bought crack in hillcrest in broad daylight to prove how out of control drugs were? City govt threatened to lock him up, unconcerned with the facts, calling him “racist”. I am quite sure many of you cheered the govt and joined in, gleefully whining “RACIST!!!!”. Because YOU are the problem.
    The problem is not a political one, but a moral one. You demand “SOMEONE should DO something!!! Just not ME!”. There are plenty of grifters, liars and thieves who are happy to steal your labor and do NOTHING to solve EMINENTLY solvable problems. And there you have it, as hard as it is to swallow. Whine at me all you want with your self-serving nonsense; I care not a whit.

  39. Mental health services will have limited or no effect in changing the behavior of people like Henry. The legal system needs to deal with people like him in a very aggressive manner… in permanent incarceration.

  40. How do we track this criminal’s location. Where is he now, Friday 30 June, 2:15 p.m.? How can we follow any scheduled hearings, court dates, etc.? Is an electronic tether an option? This man is a danger to society, and animals. NO UNSECURED BOND!!!!

  41. Sorry for your loss.
    We all need to toughen up! Carry at all times! This would have been a perfect time to put it to good use. I’ll be surprised if this thing gets any jail time at all. And if it does, why should taxpayers be paying for this persons food, water and shelter!

  42. I feel very sorry for the poor pooch and owner. Leftist voters own this. Asheville is a leftist bastion and is proudly the San Fran of NC. This is the result of electing democrats to all your offices. It is a “mental health” issue only for the voters who are totally clueless.

  43. Sorry, but I just saw another typical post, and it MUST be addressed. Read my other comment on morality first.
    It is not a “conservative” ideal to state evil nonsense like “justice is letting the victim decide the punishment”. Or “let’s do some horrific thing to a perp! THAT’LL show ’em.”. It is, again, lazy stupidity and evil, and you are little better than the one you hope to abuse.
    When God judges you (and He surely shall), how do you want your sins dealt with? Oh, and don’t dare pretend with me, we are all sinners. Jesus’ message was so simple, and yet you STILL didn’t get it. He was neither a commie hippie, nor a blood-thirsty nutter. He preached sanity, and you reject it. He taught things like “treat others as you wish to be treated.”…you don’t. He said “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”, and you rush to find a stone. He said ““If anyone causes one of these little ones (children)—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”. Love the sinner, hate the sin was the message over and over. YOU help others…don’t pay lip service was the clear message of one of His parables. And you refuse.
    Until you love your neighbor (doesn’t mean just the person living next door, nor does it mean for evil to go unpunished, nor does it mean abuse people to make yourself feel righteous) as yourself, things are going to get MUCH, MUCH worse. Hear me now and believe me later. I wonder how many read this, and how many SEETHED with hatred, simply over mentioning Jesus the Christ? If you don’t believe in Him, that’s between you and God. But denying the simple, caring messages is evil absurdity.

  44. Mental health and the (lack of) care surely plays a part, as does simple morality. The problem? A lazily stupid (you are not stupid by nature, you choose it through laziness…not being invested enough to get FACTS about issues, instead parroting what you agree with, with no effort or even homogeneous of positions taken.), immoral populace. You want to lock a human being up forever, without knowing anything about the person or the evil places you want to send them. All you care about is “not in MY back yard! let someone ELSE deal with it!”. That is not the nature of citizenry. The Founders of this nation stated that a constitutional republic (it is NOT a democracy, thank God) is only viable for an educated, hard-working, moral people. You ain’t it. Easily proven, if you need it be so. Sick-ology was hijacked by leftist pols by at LEAST the 1970’s. Look into the nobel prize-winning scientist who had a diabetic attack in a bus station…locked up in a mental hospital and couldn’t get out until family figured out where he was. The “experts” stated he was “delusional” for factually stating he was the scientist he claimed to be. Or the student who feigned being psychotic…he immediately dropped the “symptoms” as soon as he was admitted. It took a court order to get him out. Staff wrote in their notes “writing behavior”, as if something bizarre, never bothering to read that he was documenting EVERYTHING that went on in the place. You see, the problem is government lackeys. Govt lackeys work for you. So YOU are the problem. As long as you don’t have to deal with a problem, you care not a whit what happens to the person who has whatever problem he has, whether that be drug addiction, mental illness or just infection by evil…just make it so YOU don’t have to see it. Big pharma CLEARLY also plays a role, but that is no different from govt. Any sufficiently large group of people acts as if playing out a script. It has been KNOWN for at LEAST 30 years that SSRIs (anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication) can lead a person to suicide or homicide…yet they have been handed out like candy at a parade for decades with NO follow up. I will say it no matter how annoying it is…the People are the problem, looking for simplistic solutions that SOMEONE ELSE will provide. How many of you call the police over every little “annoyance” or inconvenience, instead of knowing your neighbors, and speaking/treating them as you wish to be treated. The divorce rate proves problems are about individual morality: If you WON’T (it’s not that you can’t) treat a spouse or family member as you wish to be treated, how much worse do you treat those you barely or don’t know? Pretty awfully, I bet. “Fix yourself, fix the world” is 100% true. “Fixing” yourself doesn’t mean taking yoga classes, dressing in fancy clothes/driving a nice care, etc. It means living an examined life. It means “how am I behaving? how would i react to how I am treating others, were I in their shoes? Is there SOMETHING I can do to help?”. An unexamined life is not worth living, as Socrates supposedly said. But then, you are MUCH smarter than he, eh?

  45. I used to enjoy visiting Asheville, now you couldn’t pay me to go downtown. There is only one solution to this problem. If you have no legitimate address, a rental or house , you get locked up. If you are visiting, proof of your hotel. No panhandling anywhere. No camping. Until those things are done, Asheville will stay a dangerous place to live, work or visit.

  46. The voters in Asheville who elected the government you have are 100% to blame. “It’s happening everywhere. ” means don’t ask me to fix it.

  47. Vagrancy is a crime in many jurisdictions. The term vagrancy refers to the act of being homeless, without evident means of supporting oneself when able to work. As far as vagrancy laws are concerned, this definition is combined with such acts as loitering, being drunk in public, prostitution, and other actions. Vagrancy has historically been a criminal act, the specifics of which varied by jurisdiction, often at the city or municipal level.

    Vagrancy laws, where they exist, prohibit such things as loitering, panhandling, sleeping outdoors in public places, gambling, prostitution.

    Panhandling, which is the act of accosting people on the street to beg for money, has become a particularly detested activity in recent years.

    Aggressive panhandlers fill their coffers by asking or badgering people for donations, often appealing to people’s sympathy. This may be done verbally, though many now use handwritten signs, the presence of children or pets, and other non-verbal appeals. Because of the coercive nature of such panhandling, and the profuse use of this type of begging to “earn a living,” most jurisdictions have established anti-panhandling laws.

    Again, vagrancy has historically been a criminal act, the specifics of which varied by jurisdiction, often at the city or municipal level.
    Asheville has a Serious Vagrant Problem and City Council needs to enforce existing laws or enforce new laws.

  48. What is most disturbing in these comments is both the number of people who immediately make it into a partisan divide and an attack on Democrats as well as the people who seem to think that “run them out of town” or “toss them in jail” is the solution. The reality is that we need major funding for mental health issues that would provide a way to get these people off the street and keep them hospitalized until they get the help they need. That also requires follow up to make sure they stay on medications. Voting for republicans who are driven to cut taxes and who despise funding these types of programs is voting against any kind of an effective solution. So if you vote that way, stop whining.

  49. I am sick to my stomach and thankful I was not there to witness this or I would be in jail awaiting charges. Asheville has gone into a spiraling pit that I have been speaking out on for the last ten years.

  50. I grew up in New York City in the 1970’s and 1980’s when New York state decided to close down its mental hospitals. So, sometimes seeing deranged, hallucinating, homeless people on the streets was dangerous and a nightmare. Today, thankfully, I live far from that place in a rural area. It’s not necessarily democrats or Republicans to blame, but a massive societal breakdown, a horrible mental health system, and an unwillingness to defend common decency and civilization. Then if some one does intervene, like that former Marine in New York City who along with some other men stopped a lunatic from terrorizing subway passengers, is lynched by the media.

  51. This man and many others with mental, drug and alcohol problems will make wonderful residents in the low-barrier housing coming to Asheville.

  52. Angela, please look up the word wonderful! This man would not be a wonderful anything anywhere.

  53. Can you tell me why you posted the remark from Loki about hope he gets out soon? But you won’t post my negative comments about it?

    1. Sure. Loki’s comment expressed an opinion. You’re welcome to disagree with it, and we encourage you to do so, thoughtfully. But comments attacking another commenter personally — ad hominem attacks, name-calling — are not welcome here. This space is for the exchange of ideas, not insults.

  54. As a decendent of Samuel Ashe, I find this situation appalling. I wonder what the good gentleman would think of this city today. I truly hope those degenerant people haven’t desecrated his monument. He was a Good Man.

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