Cop questions ABC op at Harris Teeter

Just wanted to thank you for the article ["Terror at Harris Teeter: Indignation rises over ABC underage drinking op"]. I read the story with special interest because I retired as a police sergeant in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last year. I also have a 20-year-old daughter off at college who sings in the choir, isn't a drinker, gets good grades, and would probably be the one sent to buy sparking water and ice cream for the late night party. I know this, because sometimes I get the near-midnight phone call to ask me something as she and a friend are making yet another run to the store.

My questions after 23 years of police work are:

  • Why was she not stopped and investigated before she got into her car? This is police work 101. By not stopping her right there on the sidewalk, before she got into the car, they allowed her access to guns and the immense power of the car itself.
  • Although it is de rigueur on CSI and all the hit police dramas, plainclothes detectives are a singularly poor choice to do such operations. In Albuquerque, we would have had two patrol cars just out of sight, ready to remove any doubt that this was indeed a bona fide police operation. 
  • I have not seen any story stating that the store itself was then subjected to a raid of eight plainclothes officers, screaming and jumping on the counter. If the girl supposedly bought beer there, wouldn't it stand to reason that the store that sold it deserved the similar response?
  • In Albuquerque, the approach is to send in 19- and 20-year-old service aides to attempt to purchase alcohol, with no fake ID, no scam of any type. Officers watch from outside. If the clerk or server sells the alcohol, then the officers walk inside and cite them. Enough violations place the liquor licensee's premises under risk of losing their license. 
  • Last, and most creepily, had the girls legally possessed a pistol and shot their accosters, or had deliberately  run over one in an attempt to escape, they would have probably had a workable defense due to their innocence and the absence of uniformed officers in marked cars. Albuquerque and many other jurisdictions advise people that unmarked cars may not pull them over. 

The burden is, and must always be, upon the officers who have hidden their identity, never upon the innocent citizen, legally forced to believe the claim of any person who suddenly assumes the full power of the state. Officers knocking at front doors are well trained to tell the disbeliever to please call 911 for confirmation that they are indeed police officers. Plainclothes detectives are well trained in that they had damned well better obey the commands of uniformed officers if they don't want to get shot by accident. Why? Because even other officers may become confused. It's shameful that this happened to a 20-year-old girl. Keep the heat on. 

Mike Woolley


All the local police I have spoken too essentially mirror your statements.

My mind to your words...
Thank you for your cogent comments.

Mike, I'm just curious - where did you hear about this story? Are you a regular reader of the Hook or did you see it somewhere else first?

Giovanni, the story has made national news. The person could have seen it anywhere. But moving on, I was stopped by an Albemarle rookie in 1997 and arrested falsely for impersonating a Green County deputy sheriff. Why, because I was driving a Chevrolet Impala SS, which resembled the police Caprice patrol divisions were using at the time. The fact that my identity had been confirmed by the Greene County sheriff hours prior to our arrival at the magistrate's office (intentional delay while they sought help from another agency in finding a real crime to charge me with, they were denied by this agency, the Lt told them they got themselves into this mess, get out the mess yourself, do no involve us please!). But they still pursued the false arrest misdemeanor charge and dreamed up 2 more felonies to go along with it. The charges were obviously tossed out, but only after the judge attempted to hide his laughter by pretending he was choking and coughing several times! It was hilarious! The point of this being.... back in 1997 during these false arrests, the Albemarle police chief warned the public that he felt only marked cars should be performing traffic stops. While this police chief is retired now, this same department has so many unmarked cars working traffic now that it's pathetic. You never know when an unmarked car displaying blue lights is real or not. Especially when they are wearing t-shirts and rushing girls at a location 2 or 3 blocks from where a girl was abducted and killed recently. The author of this original letter is spot on with many of the questions posed in this recent three ring ABC circus.

Thank you for your service Sgt. Wooley. As I have always maintained there are many worthy police officers out there who get tainted by the bad ones. Sgt. Wooley, what you are unaware of is the level of corruption at all levels of law enforcement in Charlottesville and in Virginia (the 48th most corrupt state in the country).

For all the reasons you cited these plain clothes ABC agents failed in their duties and obligations. As for our dubious Commonwealth Attorney he actually filed charges, which he later dropped. How he justified his actions is beyond the pail. A totally innocent girl(s) as clearly proven by the 911 tapes and the purchase of bottled water could never justify the charges.

Not being a political animal myself I find it amusing that not soon after the release of this news the Governor's son is arrested in C'ville for being drunk and disorderly. Tit for tat perhaps since ABC is a state body.

You see for all of us who live in C'ville we know that every week-end a large percentage of the student body is drunk and disorderly in front of the local police and nothing happens to them. The local cops are told to turn a blind eye to UVA students. Students are usually arrested by VSP but rarely by local police. UVA student roam Charlottesville's streets very freely. Underage drinking is rampant. Rapes too are common but serial UVA student rapists are never arrested or charged because of an unsaid policy. Nor does the University of Virginia expel students for any type of sexual misconduct. NEVER. Multiple complaints filed with the authorities ever see the light of day and are blatantly covered up. Complaints against UVA with the Dept. of Education never result in any punishment. The legal system in C'ville is broken, corrupt and unchecked. There are multiple conflicts and incestuous relationships between UVA and local law enforcement. So this saga will continue until federal authorities investigate and prosecute the trusted law enforcement parties involved in these shenanigans and criminal cover ups.

There is no transparency and no justice in C'ville.

The Commonwealth Attorney did not file the charges. The magistrate listened to what the ABC agents had to say about the three ring circus that took place at the Harris Teeter grocery store and then proceeded to write the arrest warrants and hold a bond hearing. The Commonwealth Attorney then refused to prosecute the charges.

Another little known fact about charging people.... misdemeanors come out of the county budget but felonies get reimbursed x amount from the state whether they are later rolled back or not.. so the Prosecuters have two reasons to charge aggessivily, one is to get leverage and the other is to get money. Meanwhile someone who has a felony arrest on their record even rolled back is too often passed over for a job...

People get into scuffles, petty theft, misunderstandings, or even push back at a strongarmed cop who is abusing them and charged with a felony.. so as a soceity we have an obligation to keep it fair, it makes no sense to charge someone to get some money in the Prosecuters coffers and then hand out 5 times as much in welfare because they are unemployable.. (or the life of crime they resort to because they can't get a job because of their record)

Punish people accordingly but don't ruin peoples lives because of poor officer training and Commonwealth Attorneys who are willing to ruin a life for a few more bucks in the budget.

"Bicyclist flees country after Oregon police force catheterization"

Exactly, Mike, exactly.

How long before the CA dropped the charges? Why did it take so long?

Experience with UVA, once an arrest takes place the suspect has to be produced before a magistrate forthwith. The magistrate reviews what took place and why the arresting officer(s) are asking for arrest warrants. The magistrate writes the arrest warrants and holds a bond hearing. Sometimes bond is granted, sometimes not. The Commonwealth Attorney hasn't even been involved at this time in the vast majority of cases. A date for the suspect to appear in General District Court is set at the bond hearing before the magistrate, or the next morning usually via a video link between the jail and the judge. Even most felonies start at the General District Court level. From there they are certified to a Grand Jury in Circuit Court.

The Commonwealth Attorney has plenty of time after the initial arrest and before the hearings in General District Court and/or Circuit Court to review the charges and decide if he is going to prosecute the charges or not.

Spot on, Gasbag!
Say, isn't this the same CA who proclaims that he can't choose to not prosecute minor possession charges?

Not sure. I've never seen him quoted as saying that.

I understand why an ABC agent investigating moonshiners or untaxed liquor transporters would need a firearm. But kids at a grocery store? Seriously?

Gasbag, sorry to burst your bubble but Chapman is far from a hero in all this. It took him until late June to drop the charges!!!!!!

Based on all the facts this tardy decision shows he is not independent.

Chapman may not have even seen the charges until they arrived at the Circuit Court level. And that most likely would have been June or later in most cases if the arrests took place in April. One of Chapman's assistants might have handled the charges at the General District level and agreed to prosecute said charges. And Chapman reversed that decision when the charges landed on his desk perhaps.

Gasbag, you're full of it! Chapman is a UVA grad and a UVA law Grad. This was a big enough screw up and he would have known the very same night this operation went down. To believe otherwise is naive or disingenuous.

Gasbag, you are a bit off regarding the Court process. In felony arrests, the arrestee is taken before the magistrate. The arresting officer presents a "criminal complaint'. Some magistrates require that complaint to be in writing, others do not.

The police officer then swears, under oath, regarding the circumstances of the arrest. If the magistrate believes there is probable cause, an arrest warrant is issued and bond set.

This type of arrest would then proceed to the General District Court for a preliminary hearing, unless that hearing is waived by the defendant. The preliminary hearing is be the first time evidence of the case would be presented to the Court. In theory, this may be the first time the Commonwealth Attorney becomes involved. Except to subpoena witnesses, the Commonwealth Attorney may not review the case until immediately prior to Court.

Per news reports, it was at the preliminary hearing that the Commonwealth Attorney advised the Court that he did not desire to pursue prosecution.

Per the news reports? How accurate do you think they are and how often? Does the reporter know who first handled this case? Did an assistant Commonwealth Attorney see it first at the General District level and handle it? That's the way it usually works. Did anybody call Dave Chapman and say, "hey, you need to look at this real quick!" I doubt seriously if Chapman knew about this event and charges at the time they took place.

Let's get one thing clear. I do not like Chapman at all. He crossed my path with a poor attitude on several occasions. Once he asked court security officers why I was allowed past locked doors and allowed access so close to the judge's chambers. It was none of his business more or less, the officers knew what was going on. Maybe he forgot I had been a deputy sheriff for three decades, I don't know! The second time he opposed expungement of records. Cost me more money and steps in clearing my clean record. I got all of my money back, but he had no chance of winning in his opposition, his opposition just added more annoying and aggravated steps I had to take.

The wheels of justice move slowly. Charges like placed against Daly don't get thrown out within an hour of their being written by a magistrate. And they don't get tossed out within 24 hours of their being written either. And once the charges do land on Dave Chapman's desk, he needs time to look into them and make sure this was a nightmare that probably should never have taken place. Give him some credit please. He did the right thing after his investigation into all the facts.

I applaud, underscore, and endorse the sentiments expressed by Mr. Woolley. As a former LEO of 23 yrs. and father of a 20YO female college student, he knows from whence he speaks. Readers are encouraged to read and heed his sage observations.

To his last point, i.e., "...had the girls legally possessed a pistol..." I would add this:

What if one of the girls had a CC permit, had previously completed firearms training, and most importantly, because she was afraid made a move to retrieve said weapon.

It is not a far stretch at all to imagine that, upon an ABC officer seeing a weapon, the situation would have escalated *very* quickly and far too easily out of control---even farther out of control than it already did.

It is not unreasonable to expect that the sight of a weapon would cause the ABC officers to assume the worst and react in kind. That could be avoided, though--just as the entire, original episode could have been avoided--had the ABC officers in question managed this situation very differently from the outset.

As it is, young women were understandably frightened, one was unnecessarily incarcerated overnight, and a PR mess has ensued for the ABC. With the hypothetical above, it could have been even worse to the point of catastrophic for those involved on both sides of this equation.

And none of this--none of it--had to happen.

Time to re-think things, ABC.

[BTW: Based upon the prior, documented performance issues with a certain ABC officer who was involved in this case, is anyone considering a complaint of negligent retention?]

Many unanswered questions, including

Were the passengers physically detained, if so, how long?
Was the vehicle searched after it was determined that the beverage was water?
Who in ABC management knew what and when?
Did Taylor get advice from his supervisor before the arrest was made?

It would appear that the circumstances of the case were discussed by ABC management after the arrest. Assuming accurate and complete reports were filed, it appears that ABC management conspired in a cover-up to protect itself. This was done at Ms. Daly's expense.

Those in the chain of command and aware of the events, from the supervisor on the scene to Insley, need to be held accountable.

This incident is more proof that we live in the most uptight state in the nation.

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