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College student charged with felony after buying water

Alcoholic Beverage Control officials reportedly swarmed a young girl's vehicle when they mistook a 12-pack of sparkling water for beer

By Liana Bayne
The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Va.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — State Alcoholic Beverage Control officials said Friday that they're reviewing an incident in which agents arrested a University of Virginia student on felony charges after she attempted to flee officers who suspected a crate of bottled water to be a case of beer.

Prosecutors on Thursday dropped the charges against Elizabeth Daly, 20, saying no one was hurt and describing her as having panicked at the sight of plainclothes agents who approached her and two roommates at about 10:15 p.m. April 11 outside the Harris Teeter store in the Barracks Road Shopping Center.

Daly's SUV struck two agents, an ABC statement said Friday.

"This whole unfortunate incident could have been avoided had the occupants complied with law enforcement requests," the agency said.

The story generated a buzz across the Internet and in social media Friday.

ABC spokeswoman Kathleen Shaw said in the agency statement released Friday afternoon that agents were working the area that night, concentrating on underage possession enforcement. Shaw said a female agent saw "what appeared to be an underage person in possession of what appeared to be a case of beer."

"The agent identified herself as a police officer and was displaying her badge," the statement said.

"The agents were acting upon reasonable suspicion," the statement added.

As the drama unfolded, roughly a half-dozen agents responded, according to authorities. In a written statement Thursday, Daly described the badges as "unidentifiable." She said she and her friends were unsure of who the agents were.

"One of the men ... drew a gun," said Daly, who is from Henrico County. "Our panic heightened."

She stopped the SUV for an agent driving a vehicle with lights and sirens, and apologized when she realized the agents were law enforcement officers, according to prosecutors.

"Other agents did not join the incident until the subject refused to cooperate," ABC said. "Rather than comply with the officers' requests, the subject drove off, striking two officers."

Daly said she and her roommates were "terrified" after being approached while carrying a blue carton of LaCroix sparkling water along with cookie dough and ice cream purchased for a fundraiser.

Authorities charged Daly with two counts of assaulting a law enforcement officer and one count of eluding police, all Class 6 felonies carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison and $2,500 in fines per offense.

"She was not arrested for possessing bottled water, but for running from police and striking two of them with a vehicle," ABC's statement said.

A friend in the front seat of the SUV recently had heard stories from dozens of sexual assault survivors at an annual Take Back the Night vigil on UVa Grounds and was on edge, Daly's defense attorney, Francis McQ. Lawrence, said Thursday. The friend urged Daly to "go, go, go," court records state.

"They were not in anything close to a uniform," Daly said in her written account.

"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. They began trying to break the windows. My roommates and I were ... terrified," Daly stated.

The women dialed 911 while pulling out of the parking lot to report what was happening and to ask whether the agents were officers, Daly said. She said she was planning to drive to a police station.

Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman said Thursday that he'd never encountered a similar situation in 34 years of experience.

"It wouldn't be the right thing to do to prosecute this," he said.

The process, he said, ultimately yielded an appropriate resolution.

Daly wrote that the incident "is not just forgotten by [Thursday's] results."

"This has been an extremely trying experience and one that has called into question what I value most: my integrity, honor and character," she said. "Cookie dough and ice cream for a fundraiser should not put you through an extremely degrading night and afternoon in jail, appearing in court, posting bond, having to pay an attorney ... not allowed to leave the state, causing you endless nights of no sleep, [a]ffecting your school work and final exams, wondering if you would be dismissed from school, wondering how this would damage your reputation and ability to get a job, all while waiting on pins and needles to see what the Commonwealth is going to offer you."

Daly wrote that she never has consumed alcohol.

"We take all citizen complaints seriously," the ABC statement said, "and the matter is currently under review by the ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement."

Copyright 2013 The Daily Progress

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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