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Election Hit and Run?

Injured protester sues Bush supporter

What occurred after a Republican fundraiser earlier this month may well have been a partisan hate-crime. At least that's how it looks to the alleged victim, a protester who says an enraged Republican deliberately tried to run him over with his car after the high-dollar event in Eastover, which was headlined by none other than President George W. Bush.

According to a lawsuit filed Monday by Alex Kramer, James Harrison Whitner III, the driver of the car, "became enraged" at the protesters who taunted Republicans with their signs and slogans at the entrance of the Mint Museum parking lot. The lot had been used for parking for those attending the event at the home of C.D. Spangler and his wife.

In his suit, Kramer claims that after protesters and Republicans leaving the event exchanged words, Whitner "intentionally, violently" drove his vehicle off the road and onto the sidewalk where Kramer was standing, attacking and striking Kramer with his car. Kramer claims he dove onto the hood of the vehicle to escape being hit and was thrown from the vehicle, at which point the driver again attempted unsuccessfully to run him over.

"He turned the wheel of his car towards the curb and ran up onto the sidewalk," says Kramer. "Here I was looking at a man who was trying to run me over. His bumper was right up against my legs and he began to hit the gas. I could either be run over or get up onto the hood of the car. I opted for the latter. There I was on my stomach on the hood of this maniac's car. I started banging on his windshield and shouting, "What's the matter with you?' He hit the gas again and I grabbed onto his windshield wiper. He hit the gas again, then the brakes suddenly and I went tumbling off the car and onto the grass, still clutching the wiper, which I had ripped off the car as I was thrown from the hood. He backed up and drove off really fast, but not before some 20-odd eyewitnesses had gotten the make, model and license plate number of his car."

A police report of the incident describes what happed as, "Assault/Assault with a deadly weapon" and a "hit and run." Serious charges, for which a warrant for Whitner's arrest had not been issued as of Monday. Police did not answer Creative Loafing's requests for comment on the case, so it's unclear whether an arrest warrant will be issued, and if so, when.

Whitner lives at 1321 Scotland Avenue and is registered as a Republican with the county board of elections. According to his registration, he is 73. Kramer's attorney, Ken Davies, first gained notoriety when he sued the city to stop the recent development of SouthPark Mall. More recently, Davies ran for a seat on the Charlotte City Council as a Democrat last year, but lost to Patsy Kinsey in the Democratic primary.

A female member of Whitner's family was surprised when she learned about the impending lawsuit from CL in a phone call on Friday.

"Oh, for heavens sake," she said. After taking down the details, she declined to identify herself by name or to comment further.

Witnesses at the scene that day say several protesters got Whitner's license number before he drove away. They claim that the incident happened just as Kramer describes it.

"I saw Alex pound his fist into the windshield as he exclaimed, "What do you think you are doing? You could have killed me!'" said Lisa Sarinelli, another protester at the event. "The driver continued yelling nasty comments and gunned the engine, hit the gas and drove a few feet -- I thought he was actually going to drive out onto Randolph Road -- then he hit the brake. I saw Alex fall off the car at that point with a windshield wiper in his hand. The driver once more gunned the engine, started toward Alex as he lay where he fell. However, the driver then changed direction and sped off."

According to the lawsuit, which seeks damages in excess of $10,000, the alleged attack has caused Kramer physical pain and mental suffering for which he has received treatment and will continue to receive treatment.

In an interview with CL last week, Kramer, who said he was feeling litigious, seemed the most upset about the windshield wiper.

"Sadly, I had to give up the wiper as evidence," said Kramer. "Too bad. I wanted to mount that sumbitch on the wall as a trophy!"

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