Local News

Chapel Hill police send knife-wielding man for mental exam

Posted March 24, 2014

— A man who threatened a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student with two knives Sunday afternoon has been involuntarily committed to UNC Hospitals for a psychiatric evaluation.

Chapel Hill police took Jesse Alan Kister, 31, into custody in a church parking lot near the intersection of East Franklin Street and Raleigh Road about 45 minutes after the confrontation in The Pit, a campus courtyard outside the Frank Porter Graham Student Union.

Witnesses said Kister began arguing with a student in The Pit, then pulled out the knives and started screaming, "Get out." When two other people confronted him, Kister ran off toward Franklin Street, according to witnesses.

The incident put the UNC-Chapel Hill campus on lockdown and prompted school administrators to activate the Alert Carolina emergency system, which notified students, faculty and staff via text and email and sounded sirens across campus.

Once he is released from the hospital, Kister will face charges of assault with a deadly weapon, communicating threats and possession of a weapon on campus, police said.

Kister earned a bachelor's degree and two master's degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill, according to his LinkedIn profile. He has worked for various technology companies and last year launched Algorhythmic L3C, a health care informatics consulting firm.

A source close to his family said Kister returned to North Carolina from California last year, has been troubled in recent months and clearly needs help.

Police said UNC sophomore Peter Diaz filed an assault with a deadly weapon complaint Sunday after seeing Kister's photo in media reports of his arrest. Diaz said Kister pulled a knife on him and a companion Saturday night outside the Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom on West Franklin Street.

"It looked like he was possessed or really angry about something but wasn't able to completely express it," Diaz said Monday.

Diaz said he and his friend were eating at the bar in the restaurant when Kister sat down next to them, and he stared at them and muttered for the rest of their meal. He said Kister rushed out the door as they got up to leave, and he confronted them at a nearby corner.

"I looked at him and said, 'What are you doing?' and he started shaking his head, getting aggravated," Diaz said.

Kister then pulled out a knife and told Diaz and his friend to keep walking, Diaz said. The pair ran off and returned later to talk to police.

"Everyone in the area that had seen this happen was very rattled," he said. "This wasn't like in an alley or anything. It was sort of where everyone was eating outside."

Diaz doesn't plan to press charges in that case, police said Monday.

"I don't feel like I have anything to gain by pressing charges as long as he's not on the street doing that kind of thing to random people because it's very scary," Diaz said.


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  • Fanny Chmelar Mar 25, 2014
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    You're welcome. And thank you for not clutching your gun and trying to get people to go defensive!

  • glarg Mar 24, 2014

    "Had someone had a gun, this guy could be dead instead of getting the mental health attention he needs."

    No, he could have just as easily stabbed and killed Diaz since he "confronted" them in a "corner". Read the story.

    When its a crazy guy with a knife, the problem is the crazy guy (correct). When it a crazy guy with a gun, the story becomes the gun. What happened to the craziness being the real issue?

    Everyone is taking a "no harm no foul" attitude here but there is no difference in lethality between what Kister did here and if he had shown up with a gun.

  • carrboroyouth Mar 24, 2014

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    Thank you for being reasonable! He needs mental assistance, not a bullet.

  • carrboroyouth Mar 24, 2014

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    Alert Carolina did not say it was a gun. They said that the man was armed and dangerous, which he was. Armed leads many to assume that it was a firearm -- but I have yet to read a single report saying he had a gun.

  • carrboroyouth Mar 24, 2014

    I hope he gets the help he needs.

    -- a UNC student

  • disgusted2010 Mar 24, 2014

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    It appears the point you intend to make is that guns are OK where and when you decide they are. What is the difference in carrying on a college campus and carrying anywhere else? Just because a person has a concealed weapon permit and has a weapon on their person does not mean they will shoot someone down like a dog. A responsible concealed weapon carrier, on a campus or not, will not show their weapon or consider using it unless their life is in danger or the life of another is in danger. A person who would shoot the person just because he had a knife would do so on or off a campus and as doing so would be a crime would most probably not obey the law prohibiting a gun on campus. Besides, the law does NOT allow carrying on campus. By the way, I am not afraid of gun haters, I just disagree with them and would welcome your "facts."

  • Axtel Mar 24, 2014

    "A source close to his family said Kister returned to North Carolina from California last year, has been troubled in recent months and clearly needs help."

    Well thar ya go.......

  • Fanny Chmelar Mar 24, 2014
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    I don't hate my gun. If you cannot understand the point being made you may want to consider reading some facts instead of projecting your fears on others.

  • Alexia Proper Mar 24, 2014
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    Think about this just a little. How do we know whether this guy had more or not? We don't and there's no reason to assume he did. How do we know that there isn't another fellow standing in the crowd with an AK-47? We don't. Shall we lock down the campus every day out of fear of the unknown? It's faulty logic to assume that a guy who pulls out a knife is more or less dangerous to the entire student population than the next guy.

    If there is a threat, you have to assess the threat. Blowing the threat out of proportions does not lead to better security. In fact, I would argue that it makes things worse. It's like all the false fire alarms I had when I was in college. At some point, you don't believe the alarms anymore.

  • LetsBeFair Mar 24, 2014

    For someone worthy of a Concealed carry permit, I'm for it on campus. Most will never do the training but at the same time I think they will be forever grateful to those that did. What the media does not do well is post the countless concealed carry hero's that stopped/ended a crime.