DA says fatal Market St. hotel shooting justified, calls on corridor to ‘clean up its act’

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Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous (left), District Attorney Ben David and Assistant District Attorney Doug Carriker gathered for a press conference about the fatal shooting at the Carolinian Inn last month. Photo by Christina Haley.
Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous (left), District Attorney Ben David and Assistant District Attorney Doug Carriker were present for a press conference about a fatal shooting at the Carolinian Inn last month. (Port City Daily/Christina Haley)

No charges will be filed in last month’s shooting death at a Market Street hotel, but police and prosecutors say it’s time for lawlessness to stop.

District Attorney Ben David said Monday afternoon during a press conference the investigation showed the shooting was justified in self-defense, then made the announcement of a new joint initiative with the Wilmington Police Department and city attorneys. Their charge is to stop the drugs, prostitution and violence that has been “emanating” out of several motels and hotels along Market, he said.

Damiera James Tiesman, 36, was fatally wounded in a shooting inside a hotel room at the Carolinian Inn located at 2916 Market St. on Sunday, Nov. 29. But prosecutors will not file any charges in the case after reviewing all the evidence, David said.

Tiesman was shot multiple times inside the room at about 5:42 p.m., according to Wilmington Police Department Spokeswoman Linda Rawley. Witnesses reported hearing a disturbance inside a hotel room, then gunshots. When police arrived at the hotel, they found Tiesman lying on the floor of the room with gunshot wounds. Tiesman was pronounced dead at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

The night before the shooting, Tiesman met a 22-year-old woman at the Wilmington Sportsmen’s Club at 1111 Castle Street. At the end of the night Tiesman drove the woman to the Carolinian Inn where she was temporarily staying, David said.

The next evening, Tiesman paid $40 for the woman’s hotel room and offered to take her shopping. At that time the woman was sharing the hotel room with a 29-year-old man who was not known to Tiesman. When the woman went back to the room, Tiesman pushed past her and reportedly attacked the 29-year-old man with a revolver in his hand, David said.

The woman ran from the room as Tiesman began to pistol whip the 29-year-old man in the room, David said. During the course of the assault the man was able to grab Tiesman’s revolver and fired the weapon.

“One bullet hit the floor of the room, one bullet hit the wall of the hotel room and four bullets hit Mr. Tiesman,” David said. “With Mr. Tiesman gravely wounded, [the man] fled the scene and later turned himself in to authorities.”

According to David, the 29-year-old man who fired the weapon acted in “lawful self-defense.”

The 29-year-old man had injuries to the back of his head consistent with being pistol whipped and investigators found hair that had been torn from his head in the attack. David said that along with other evidence, including the weapon that police tied to Tiesman, indicated self-defense.

“Medical evidence from Tiesman’s autopsy showed that the bullet’s trajectories, all fired into the front of Mr. Tiesman, and stippling are also consistent with a close-in fight described by [the man],” David said.

The shooting and other violence police have found at several hotels and motels in the Market Street corridor (roughly spanning from the I-40 overpass to 23rd Street), have led to a new initiative between the District Attorney’s Office, the Wilmington Police Department and the city, according to David.

“While there is no criminal charge relating to [this case], I think it is fair to say that the prosecutors and officers who have all looked at this case have seen a general atmosphere of lawlessness that, quite frankly, has reached an intolerable point in our community,” David said. “I have committed to Mr. Tiesman’s family, and I say this to the entire community, that the Market Street corridor and particularly some of the hotels and motels that have been operating there need to clean up their act or we’re going to do it for them.”

David said criminal and civil laws will be looked into as his office and city attorneys evaluate options to alleviate the pattern of criminal activity seen at some of the Market Street establishments like the Carolinian Inn, where Tiesman was killed.

Over the next several days, David said letters will be sent out to property owners and trustees of several establishments that have a documented history of criminal activity from which “a troubling pattern has emerged.”

“We will take whatever legal means we can…to make sure those places are safe and that the prostitution, the drug activity, [and] the violence that were are seeing emanating out of some of them will stop,” David said.

According to Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evanglous, the “Market Street project,” which aims at problematic “hot spots” on Market Street that have had a documented history of criminal activity, include areas at or near several of the hotels and motels.

“We hope to see some real results here in the future. If we do not, we’re fully prepared to use nuisance abatement and seize the property from the owners,” Evangelous said. “They better clean up their act or they’re going to be out of business permanently.”

Both the district attorney and police chief said more information about the “Market Street project” will be released as it is available. After the press conference Monday, the chief and members of the district attorney’s office had a scheduled meeting with city attorney’s about the new initiative, David said.