Crime & Courts

Warrants: UNC student visited Chapel Hill bars, party before I-85 fatal crash

Chandler Kania
Chandler Kania

An underage UNC student visited two bars and a party before troopers say he drove drunk and killed three people in a head-on collision July 19, search warrants show.

Chandler Kania, 20, of Asheboro, was released from the Orange County jail on a $1 million secured bond Tuesday afternoon.

The rising junior is charged with three counts of second-degree murder, three counts of felony death by motor vehicle and one count of serious injury by motor vehicle. He also is charged with driving while impaired, careless and reckless driving, possessing an open container of alcohol, possession of alcohol by a person under age 21 and driving by a person less than 21 years old after consuming alcohol.

State Highway Patrol officials said Kania was driving northbound in the southbound lanes of Interstate 85 near the Interstate 40 split when he collided with a Suzuki, killing three people: the driver, Felecia Harris, 49, of Charlotte; Darlene McGee, 46, of Charlotte; and Jahnice Baird, 6, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Kania’s friends have provided investigators with details about that night.

Kania and a group of friends were at a party until around midnight July 18, according to search warrants. They left and went to La Residence in Chapel Hill, where door staff checked Kania’s identification, a witness told officers.

La Residence has provided officers with surveillance footage, but owner Frances Gualtieri said they have not found records that Kania bought anything.

A roommate told officers that Kania had been going to the restaurant regularly, using a driver’s license issued to an older Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity brother, Alcohol Law Enforcement warrants state.

The group then went to He’s Not Here on Franklin Street. Officers have obtained a $14 credit card receipt in Kania’s name from the bar, warrants state. The receipt shows the bill was paid at 1:48 a.m. July 19.

Friends told officers that they tried to keep Kania from driving, warrants state.

The first call to 911 that Kania’s Jeep Wrangler was heading in the wrong direction on Interstate 85 came in at 3:06 a.m., the warrant states.

Kania “had a strong odor of alcohol about his person at the collision scene,” troopers reported.

Past violations

He’s Not Here and La Residence have had alcohol-related incidents in the last 18 months, according to police records.

Officers responding to a fight at He’s Not Here in November found three underage men outside who had been drinking, said police spokesman Lt. Josh Mecimore. Two men were cited for underage possession of alcohol, he said, while the third was cited for underage alcohol consumption.

The men were not at the bar when police found them, but “the likelihood of them drinking somewhere else is pretty slim,” Mecimore said.

Two violations were reported at La Residence on West Rosemary Street, including a possible alcohol overdose in December. Mecimore said the person in that case was charged with having a fake Ohio driver’s license, possessing alcohol under the age of 19 and underage consumption.

Police also found fake identification when they stopped someone walking out of La Residence in October with a beer in hand, Mecimore said.

Both businesses also have faced the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission in the past.

He’s Not Here will face the commission again Aug. 12. The new case involves a sale to an underage buyer on April 2 and four instances where the bar failed to determine the buyer’s age, reports show. The bar could have its permit suspended for 50 days or pay a $5,000 fine, ABC officials said.

Eighteen bars, retailers and restaurants in Chapel Hill and Carrboro have been cited for alcohol violations since January, according to ABC Commission reports.

He’s Not Here and La Residence require BARS (Be a Responsible Seller) training at the restaurant two or three times a year. Law enforcement teaches servers how to spot fake IDs and what to do when they think someone is underage.

ALE challenged

ALE has 102 sworn positions in a state of 9.9 million people and more than 29,000 businesses with ABC permits, ALE head Mark Senter said in an email.

“Budget cuts over the last several years has reduced the available funding to conduct covert operations,” he said. “With the explosive growth of ABC outlets, gangs and violence at some outlets, Alcohol Law Enforcement has become more reactive in enforcement efforts as opposed to proactive.”

A joint Durham Police Department and ALE operation this month cited employees for selling alcohol to minors at 31 locations, including three Krogers, two Food Lions and two restaurants.

Durham Sgt. Dale Gunter said they try to do alcohol compliance checks at least once a year.

With all the systems in place – from distinctive licenses for minors to point-of-sale systems that require a date of birth to make a sale – the majority of people who sell to minors make a conscious decision to disregard the law, Gunter said.

“It only takes two second to check it,” he said.

Staff writer Virginia Bridges contributed to this report.

Grubb: 919-829-8926; @TammyGrubb