With a lawsuit and a publicity campaign centered on love, Asheville resident Terry Marzelle and his supporters are pressing a police brutality case against the Asheville Police Department.
On June 22, Marzelle crossed the Haywood Road bridge on a bicycle in West Asheville while Asheville Police Department officers had it shut down as emergency officials removed a reported “suspicious device” from a bridge beam. The object turned out to be a large, red button-shaped object with the word “peace” written on it. (The interstate was also closed to traffic.)
As Marzelle crossed back over the bridge, an officer yelled to get his attention. Marzelle kept going and the officer ended up wrestling Marzelle to the ground. A WLOS-TV camera crew at the scene caught Marzelle’s arrest on video.
Police charged Marzelle with resisting a public officer and damage to real property. Community activist Jodi Rhoden, a local leader best known for her work and former ownership of Short Street Cakes in West Asheville, and a group of residents came to Marzelle’s defense, noting that he is intellectually challenged and was a victim of police brutality. They raised more than $2,000 for his legal defense before Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams and Police Chief Tammy Hooper announced that Marzelle’s charges would be dropped.
Now Marzelle and Rhoden have launched a publicity and social media campaign called Return to Love AVL aimed at calling attention to Marzelle’s case and calling attention “to celebrate Terry’s message of love.”
I recently emailed Rhoden five questions, asking her to elaborate on where things stand now with Marzelle’s case. She wrote back telling me that she asked Marzelle my questions, and he answered. Here it is:
Q: In a social media post, you wrote that you planned to send the city of Asheville a “demand letter” as a precursor to filing a lawsuit. What was the purpose, and the content, of that letter?
A: The purpose is because of police brutality and trauma and the excessive force and because I was wrongfully apprehended. I would like to expose to the general public that we are making a third attempt because I was refused two times for a meeting. They are making me feel like that to them, what happened to me, they don’t even care about. Like they think they can make it better just by dropping the charges, but that is not right, they didn’t solve the problem if they had no right to charge me in the first place. I agreed to complete cooperation. I expect that or better from them. However, they are still not communicating with me and they are still not cooperating with me.
Q: Will you or someone else file a civil lawsuit against the city of Asheville on behalf of Terry Marzelle? What’s the purpose of filing a lawsuit?
A: My purpose in filing a lawsuit is because of the fact that police brutality is happening in Asheville just like everywhere else. They need a wake-up call. I need to set precedent and make an example. I honestly feel like that after this happened to me, as good as I am to everyone, and as far as many old people that I’ve done for, and as many people I have taken care of free of charge, I feel like after all I’ve been through and what has happened to me, I would like to be able to live comfortably. I would like a bright future to be able to live comfortably, a house and a car. The cost of living in Asheville is forcing every one to have to struggle to survive. I hope I’m able to live comfortably. I’m hoping to set precedent and make an example out of my case to put an end to police brutality. It’s gone unheard of and they’ve gotten away with it. they are professionals at getting away with this. The way I was done and treated is not APD policy and is not APD protocol. they did not have the right to use excessive force as far as the laws of the state of North Carolina.
Q: You also recently launched a media campaign, Return to Love AVL. What’s the purpose of the campaign?
A: The purpose of Return to Love is because I believe everyone needs to return to love because everything is very off balance, and the only way we can rebalance everything is to return to love; for us all to help one another and stick together and cooperate instead of fighting, and having disagreements. We need to work together as far as accomplishing our dreams for the future. We are violent towards each other and we use negative verbal language toward each other. We can rebalance ourselves by returning to love and treating each other right and respecting every one, and if we do that, we will live longer. I feel like that the reason that everybody is agreeing to talk pictures holding my sticker, I believe a lot of people are on the level that I’m on and I believe that a lot of people are aiming for returning to love instead of all this violence and negativity. I do believe that these people are truly from their hearts representing returning to love. I get happy when I see people with my bumper sticker. I think that more people will have a good day after reading my bumper sticker. I believe that my bumpers sticker gives off good vibes.
Q: How is Terry doing in the wake of his arrest and subsequent dismissal of charges against him.
A: Um, I’m dealing with the thought of what happened to me constantly. And dealing with trauma. I’m just waiting around for my wounds to heal up and losing sleep because of this. I stay up at night thinking about this trying to figure up a better way of what to do about what happened to me. I’m talking to everyone that I can to try to get over this. and it is helping, because I’m finding more people every day to talk to about this. the more information I release the better I feel. the more I talk to people the better I feel. But I still cannot stop thinking about what happened to me.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to mention or highlight?
A: I would like to highlight that everyone needs to wake up a realize that something has to be done about police brutality because it is getting way out of control. If something isn’t done soon, it will only get worse, and it will not get any better. I do think I was targeted because there were other pedestrians walking across the bridge at the same time, I was the only person picked out, he picked a mentally handicapped Black man to beat up out of all the other pedestrians that were crossing the same bridge. One of the officers pinned me down on the ground while the other officer tried to choke me to sleep, and I think that was worse than wrong.
the officer that beat me up force me to hold my hands behind my back while he hit me behind my back and threw me down on my face and I landed on my face. I was not trying to fight him and I was not resisting arrest. since then, all charges have been dropped because they were wrong, embarrassed and shamed for what they done. That’s the only reason all charges were dropped.
When the officer was approaching me, I think that he let anger take over his job and him. And after anger took over him and his job he did not communicate with me verbally, not at all, until he got through beating me up, and after he got through beating me up he snatched me up off the ground and told me he would taze me. Why would I be tazed when I did nothing wrong and committed no crimes? That is not serving and protecting the citizens of Asheville.
I’m glad you’re following up on this story. The least they could have done during the public announcement of dropping the charges is a public apology directly to Terry Marzelle. At least that would have made me feel like OK, they really do realize they made a mistake. But it’s just like, haha, we got away with it. we can do it to somebody else. nobody is going to sue us. If they had apologized on live tv, news 13 when they dropped all charges against me without me having to go to court, that would make me feel like they have some feelings and some kind of heart deep down under their bullet-proof vests, but they did not even have the respect or decency to apologize for fake charges against me, and for injuring me and for using excessive force unnecessarily and for me ending up with scars.
I feel like I was lucky because the only reason that news 13 was on the scene was because of the fake bomb threat. if it was not for the fake bomb threat it would not have been on the cameras.
We have to come together as citizens of Asheville to figure out what to do to put an end to police brutality in Asheville. I would like to say that I am 36 years old and I am almost 37 years old and I would like to say that I’ve never had any felonies and never been to prison and I try to respect everyone treat everybody right to the best of my ability. I am loved all over by everyone.
Thanks everyone for the love shown through the support given to me. Distant and local, thank you all for everything and more.