Head-shop hit: Attack--- and response--- stun Corner shop owners
Lloyd Meachum never saw it coming. He had worked on the Corner for 11 years without incident, so the last thing the 65-year-old shop clerk expected when he turned around to help a customer was to get bashed on the head with a didgeridoo. Another thing he never expected: that it would take police at least three days to collect tapes with images of his alleged assailants.
The incident occurred July 22 at a head shop called Roots Rock Reggae after a trio of young men had already been in several times. That wasn't unusual, says Meachum, noting that customers often check out merch at other establishments before committing to a hand-blown glass pipe or other piece of reggae culture paraphernalia.
But on the third visit, Meachum–- who was working alone–- turned to help one of the men who indicated he was ready to make a purchase. That's when, he says, he was struck from behind with the bamboo didgeridoo, which shattered all over the place.
"The violence was totally unnecessary," says Meachum. "They didn't have to do that, to hit a 65-year-old man in the back of the head."
Meachum fell over and got back up. He believes the attackers didn't expect that, and they fled with Meachum screaming at them as another customer entered the basement shop.
Meachum's son, Seth, who owns the store, believes the attack could have been much worse. A solid wood didgeridoo was on display beside the bamboo one used as a weapon, and he worries what would have happened if his father, who has had brain surgery, had been hit with the heavier blunt object.
Police responded within minutes of the approximately 3:30pm attack. And the next day, the younger Meachum visited the nearby CVS to see if that drug store's surveillance tape captured any footage of the three men. It did.
He says the video clearly shows the three men whom he describes as being in their 20s, with one black and two white. Yet he wonders why police haven't obtained the video themselves. He says his father had called the police officer who investigated the assault three times as of Monday morning, and was told the officer was on a four-day break.
On Monday afternoon, July 26, Lloyd Meachum said he heard from investigating Officer J.L. Sandridge, who allegedly indicated he was going to pick up the tape that could identify the attacker and his cohorts.
"If evidence comes to light, it needs to be picked up immediately," says former Charlottesville Sheriff's deputy and law enforcement watchdog Steve Shifflett. "There's no excuse to put them off three or four days. If CVS has it on a three-day cycle, it could be erased."
And if the officer was on a break, says Shifflett, then the case should have been assigned to someone else. Neither Sandridge nor Charlottesville Police spokesman Lieutenant Gary Pleasants had returned phone calls from the Hook at press time.
Both Meachums describe themselves as frustrated with police response and frustrated that the public hasn't had a chance to see the face of the man who would take a swing at a senior citizen in his place of business. And Lloyd Meachum calls the didgeridoo attacker and his pals dangerous.
"Let's catch these people," he says, "because if they do it to me, they'll do it to someone else."
Meachum also admits the attack has shaken him.
"I have some fear," he says. "I wonder if those guys are going to come back in because I'm an eyewitness."
Son Seth is worried, too. "I'm not going to let him work alone," he vows. And he's going to install security cameras. "I never felt I needed them before."