An LGBTQ+ bar owner was shot at by cops during a Black Lives Matter protest after the police received an anonymous tip that they were giving water bottles to protestors.
Tim Lemuel owns Ruby Deluxe, a nightclub-bar in Raleigh, North Carolina. On Monday night, during an anti-racist protest, Lemuel stayed outside his bar to prevent vandals from striking his building — which they had done the night prior. Rather than stand around, though, the owner set up a first aid station for local protestors, including food, water, and medical help like washing pepper spray out of eyes.
According to Lemuel, the group helping run his aid station had been there for around seven hours before the police showed up. When they did, however, they began aggressively asking him to leave the premises and move.
“This is my business,” Lemuel responds, as seen in the video above. “I rent this place.”
The police continue to march toward the business, regardless of Lemuel’s assertion that it’s his business, so he’s allowed to be there. They continue to tell him to move, saying, “I don’t care where you go, but you gotta go.” Then, one officer opens fire with what appears to be a shotgun, yelling “The game is over. Get out.”
“I was in the Army for eight years, so the bangs didn’t bother me, but my staff were scared out of their minds,” Lemuel told the News Observer. “If you’ve never been in that situation it appears like you’re going to be killed.”
“During the seven hours, they had, you know, every opportunity to come down and check on us, see what was going on or tell us their concerns,” he added. “They just chose not to. And at some point they just went straight for guns blazing.”
The police didn’t offer much of an explanation, but spokesperson Eric Curry of the Wake County sheriff’s office noted the gun was for “riot-related crime control.” He also noted that the deputies fired two audible charges but did not use projectiles.
“We will say only that the strategy to use ‘less-lethal force’ was appropriate, for the safety of subjects,” said Curry. “Once deputies urge the crowd to disperse several times and there is non-compliance, the next step is to disperse the crowd.”
The video has been sent to the city manager and the police chief asking for an investigation into the incident by Raleigh City Council member Nicole Stewart.
“I was quite distraught,” Stewart told the News Observer. “Had it been anybody, it would have been bad enough. The idea that it was an individual, a business owner, trying to help other individuals in our community made it that much more startling. And I couldn’t let it sit.”
Another council member, Saige Martin, saw the video after numerous people sent it to him. As one of two LGBTQ+ people elected to the council, he recognized it as a safe space and home to the queer community. Martin also noted that the bar owner and supporters were being peaceful and that he found the deputies’ response chilling.
“We are still dealing with those same issues for those same people today,” he told the News Observer. “And hearing those words echo so aggressively as if there was a game to be had? I think (it) speaks perfectly well to the kind of culture and thinking that exists and pervades law enforcement today.”