Undercover Virginia police pulled a gun and tried to break through the car windows of a 20-year-old college student, suspecting that the underage girl’s sparkling water was a 12-pack of beer. She was later jailed.
When agents from Virginia’s Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) division saw college student Elizabeth Daly leaving a supermarket with cookie dough, ice cream, and a 12-pack, they assumed that she had purchased beer as an underage student and took extreme actions to stop her.
The seven plainclothed agents approached the vehicle in which the girl and her roommates were sitting, and one officer allegedly jumped on the hood of the car. Daly claims another officer pulled out his gun, which scared the students and prompted them to drive away.
“They were showing unidentifiable badges after they approached us, but we became frightened, as they were not in anything close to a uniform,” Daly wrote in an account submitted to the court.
“I couldn’t put my windows down unless I started my car, and when I started my car they began yelling to not move the car, not to start the car,” she added. “They began trying to break the windows. My roommates and I were … terrified.”
When one of Daly’s roommates urged her to “go, go, go”, Daly drove off, allegedly grazing two of the agents in the process. As they were leaving the supermarket parking lot, they called 911 to report the incident. They were then pulled over by another policeman driving a marked vehicle with lights and sirens, Charlottesville Commonwealth Attorney Dave Chapman told the Charlottesville Daily Progress.
When Daly found out who the agents were, she apologized profusely for the misunderstanding. But she was nevertheless charged with two counts of assaulting a law enforcement officer and one count of eluding police – felonies which each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
The ABC defended the charges, arguing that the girl’s response was illegal and inappropriate.
“Other agents did not join the incident until the subject refused to cooperate,” the ABC said in a statement published by USA TODAY. “Rather than comply with the officers’ requests, the subject drove off, striking two officers. She was not arrested for possessing bottled water, but for running from police and striking two of them with a vehicle.”
Daly spent the night in jail, and described the ordeal as “an extremely trying experience.” Prosecutors dropped all the charges on Thursday, noting that her written account of the incident was factually consistent.
But the young college student, who purchased ice cream and bottled water for an on-campus event, still does not understand why she was put through so much trouble — especially since she has never drank alcohol.
“It is something to this day I cannot understand or believe has come to this point,” she said.