WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- A North Carolina man charged with hitting a Black Lives Matter supporter with his vehicle in Johnson City made his first appearance in court Tuesday.
Attorneys Mac Meade and Christopher Jones of Johnson City are representing hit-and-run suspect Jared Lafer.
“This is not a case about racism. This is a case about a man who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, faced with what he perceived as a dangerous condition, dangerous situation,” Meade said after the brief court appearance.
Lafer turned himself in to Johnson City police on Monday and was charged with aggravated assault. He bonded out shortly after being taken into custody.
JCPD: Suspect identified in hit-and-run turns self in, faces aggravated assault charge
Meade said Lafer was not alone in his vehicle during the hit-and-run on Saturday. Prior to the incident, the attorney said Lafer had been eating dinner with his wife, children, and his grandparents.
“His entire family, his wife and his three young kids under the age of six were all in the car with him. And he did what he felt was necessary to get out of a situation that he felt was dangerous to his family,” said Meade.
Police aren’t releasing traffic camera footage while the investigation continues. Meade wouldn’t comment when asked about reports that protesters were beating the vehicle.
“That evidence is going to come into light in the coming weeks and months as we begin to unravel what actually took place that evening,” he said.
Court documents obtained by News Channel 11 reveal new details on what the victim, Jonathan Bowers, said happened leading up to the incident.
According to the affidavit, a group of protesters were crossing State of Franklin on Saturday. Bowers told police some drivers were growing impatient. He said at one point a black car honked their horn and “flicked-off” participants as they drove around them.
Bowers said then the white SUV driven by Jared Lafer also honked and was going “maybe two miles an hour.” But the SUV kept rolling forward and bumped him before knocking the victim down and running over both his legs.
Witnesses describe hit-and-run that injured Black Lives Matter protester
The affidavit says the vehicle’s North Carolina tag was caught on video and checked by law enforcement. Investigators tried to call Lafer’s registered phone number and there was no answer.
New information: an affidavit of complaint reveals more of what the hit-and-run victim said happened leading up to suspect Jared Lafer running over his legs.
It also details police efforts to locate Lafer after the incident: pic.twitter.com/8nnq6K3WxD
— Kaylyn Kluck WJHL (@KaylynKluck) September 15, 2020
Mitchell County, North Carolina deputies also went by Lafer’s address to make contact, but no one answered.
On Sunday, investigators received a phone call from a North Carolina attorney who Lafer had contacted. Lafer was in the process of securing a Tennessee attorney and secured his intentions of turning himself in the next day.
News Channel 11 reached out to Bowers again for comment on Tuesday, and did not hear back.
In court for his aggregated assault charge, Lafer waived his right to a preliminary hearing. His next court date is October 26th. Lafer’s attorneys requested the case be reset to allow for more time to gather information.
“To see if there are any other videos, to interview witnesses, and to just attempt to really find the truth of the matter,” Meade said.
Lafer worked in real estate, but his agent page with Asheville-based Coldwell Banker King has been removed. On Tuesday, owner Terri King told News Channel 11 he’s no longer affiliated.
“Mr. Lafer was an independent contractor with Coldwell Banker King. He is no longer affiliated with our company. We have no relationship with Jared Lafer,” King said in a statement.
Suspect in Johnson City hit-and-run during protest ‘no longer affiliated’ with Coldwell Banker King in North Carolina