Originally published: Dec. 6, 2011, 8:47 p.m.
Updated: Dec. 7, 2011, 7:51 a.m.
CHARLOTTE — The owners of the uptown bar where a woman was fatally stabbed early Sunday morning are speaking out for the first time since the deadly incident.
Hartigan’s Irish Pub and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police have come under scrutiny for allegations that one of the bar owners and an officer prevented a self-identified first responder and bar patron from assisting 30-year-old stabbing victim Antoinette Latoya Baker.
The owners of Hartigan’s are denying the charges.
“In response to the statement made anonymously by a person claiming to be a first responder that a Hartigan’s owner kept her from rendering assistance, it simply is not true,” a Tuesday-night statement from Hartigan’s Irish Pub read. “Her assertions only serve to inflame what is already a tragic and painful event.”
The allegations were made by a woman who identified herself as a first responder. She asked WCNC-TV not to reveal her identity.
“I’m holding her, trying to put pressure on her wounds and stuff, and I’m snatched up by one of the owners of the bar,” the woman said. “I’m like, ‘I’m a first-responder. She needs help, let me help her.’ And she said, ‘I’m the owner of the bar. Don’t touch her. Police have been called.’ ”
Similar remarks were made anonymously to qnotes on Sunday evening.
Efforts by qnotes and other local media to reach Jill Phillips, a co-owner of Hartigan’s, were not returned until Tuesday.
Hartigan’s Pub said they did everything they could to assist Baker and the police.
“One of the staff had summoned the police prior to the stabbing, so officers were on the scene almost immediately,” the bar said. “While officers were taking control of the situation, one of the owners was assisting the police officers and another was on the phone with the medics getting instruction.”
The business also sent their condolences to Baker’s family.
“The owners and staff of Hartigan’s Irish Pub are still in shock after the tragic and senseless event that took place Sunday,” the company statement said. “They send their condolences to the friends and family of Ms. Baker and join in their grief.”
They added, “We understand the investigation is continuing and we are cooperating in any way that we can. If anyone has additional information that will assist the investigation please contact the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department.”
The full statement from Hartigan’s appears at the bottom of this story.
Family members have also alleged misconduct by the bar and told The Charlotte Observer that police also prevented the unidentified first responder from helping.
Another woman, Jackie Duncan, who says she is a nurse, also said she wasn’t allowed to help, according to FOX Charlotte. Duncan also says police did not do enough to help Baker.
Police have denied the accusations. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Capt. Jeff Estes heads the Central police division, an area that includes Hartigan’s. He told The Observer that his officers did assist Baker.
“Everything that we are trained to do, we did,” he said.
Thirty-two-year-old Katie Nicole Robinson has been charged with murder. According to police, she remained on the scene the night of the murder and was taken to police headquarters for questioning. She remains in custody and made her first court appearance on Tuesday.
According to police, witnesses said a fight between a group of women began in Hartigan’s Pub’s bathroom. It then continued outside of the bar where Baker was stabbed with a broken bottle in the neck and abdomen. Officers were called at 2:21 a.m. and found Baker lying unresponsive near the parking lot. She was transported to Carolinas Medical Center where she was pronounced deceased shortly after arrival.
Robinson has several prior arrests, including a June 11 arrest for breaking and entering, and damage and injury to real and personal property. She was also arrested on July 8 for communicating threats, harassing phone calls and injury to personal property. She was again arrested Aug. 6 for assault and injury to personal property.
Police have not released information on what triggered the argument between Robinson and Baker but said the two did not previously know each other.
Baker was celebrating her recent enrollment at Central Piedmont Community College with two of her sisters on Saturday evening. She leaves behind several children.
Community rallies behind family, bar
Despite the allegations of misconduct, the local LGBT community has rallied behind both Hartigan’s Pub and Baker’s family and children.
Community members have spoken out with positive messages for the family on Facebook and several people are planning on collecting donations for the family.
In addition to messages of support for Baker’s family, community members have also spoken kind words to Hartigan’s and its owners. Several local bar owners and nightlife personalities have chimed in.
Organizers for the popular Takeover Friday event are planning a special mid-week Takeover at Hartigan’s.
“Time to circle the wagons gang,” Takeover organizer Dan Mauney said on the group’s Facebook page. “I send my condolences to the Baker family and ask that you keep them in your prayers. It’s time for our community to show the love to Hartigans!”
Mauney encouraged community members to gather at the restaurant and pub when it is scheduled to reopen today at 5 p.m. For more information, visit facebook.com/takeoverfriday.
[Ed. Note — This article has been edited.]
— The Charlotte Observer‘s writer Cleve R. Wootson, Jr., staff researcher Marion Paynter and WCNC-TV contributed.
Full statement from Hartigan’s Irish Pub
“The owners and staff of Hartigan’s Irish Pub are still in shock after the tragic and senseless event that took place Sunday. They send their condolences to the friends and family of Ms. Baker and join in their grief. Please know that the owners, staff, and private security guard did everything they could to assist Ms. Baker and to assist the police officers in their investigation. One of the staff had summoned the police prior to the stabbing, so officers were on the scene almost immediately. While officers were taking control of the situation, one of the owners was assisting the police officers and another was on the phone with the medics getting instructions. In response to the statement made anonymously by a person claiming to be a first responder that a Hartigan’s owner kept her from rendering assistance, it simply is not true. Her assertions only serve to inflame what is already a tragic and painful event. We understand the investigation is continuing and we are cooperating in any way that we can. If anyone has additional information that will assist the investigation please contact the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department.
“Hartigan’s goal has always been to provide a fun, safe, and welcoming environment for all of our patrons with a zero tolerance policy for any type of violence or fighting. To everyone who was injured, involved, or present, our thoughts and prayers go out to you. To the many, many of our friends and patrons who have reached out to us, we can’t express enough how much we appreciate the love and support you have given us.”