July 5, 2013
The Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control agency is changing its policy when it comes to certain operations.
The agency will now require at least one uniformed agent be on the scene during plain-cloths, undercover operations, like the one where ABC agents attempted to stop a UVa student who they thought had just bought beer.
The student attempted to flee, saying she didn't know the men surrounding her car were ABC agents. In the process, the student's car brushed aside two agents, and the student was arrested for assaulting an officer, those charges were later dropped.
July 5, 2013
Officials with the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control say it is very normal for their agents to not wear uniforms and be armed while on duty.
A handful of ABC agents are getting a lot of criticism after they swarmed University of Virginia student Elizabeth Daly on April 11 in the Harris Teeter parking lot at the Barracks Road Shopping Center. The agents assumed that Daly had purchased alcohol in the store. But she had actually bought sparkling water.
However, the agents arrested Daly when she tried to flee. The agents claim Daly grazed them with her car.
ABC employs roughly 100 undercover agents. Officials say, they rarely wear uniforms on the job. Their attire caused confusion for Daly and another student in the parking lot.
"We don't know if they're real police officers or not," Daly's friend said, in the phone call to 911 during the incident. "We're freaking out. They weren't in uniform and then they started holding up badges. We were surrounded by, like, six people and they started flashing -- well -- they were yelling at us and then we, like, didn't know if they were real police officers."
The ABC agents are sworn police officers. According to the ABC site, they must be "trained in a certified, full-time Virginia police academy."
Shortly after the arrest, a witness called 911, claiming that he had witnessed "a gun being pulled at the Harris Teeter parking lot."
ABC officials say all agents are required to carry a gun while on duty, just like other law enforcement officers.
ABC agents made 1,811 arrests in 2012, although officials could not say how many of those arrests were for underage drinking. However, a Virginia State Police report says ABC agents were involved in just three assault cases last year. That is what Daly ended up being charged with. Although that charge was later dropped.
ABC officials say agents choose stores at random to conduct undercover operations, although sometimes they target a store following a complaint. ABC records show that the Harris Teeter on Barracks Road had not had any ABC violations in at least the past six years.
Below is the transcript of the 911 call that Daly's passenger made during the incident with ABC agents:
Caller: Hi, we have a problem in the Harris Teeter parking lot. We're surrounded by people. (screaming)
911: Somebody frightened?
Caller: Oh, my God! (screaming in background)
911: What's going on?
Caller: We don't know if they're real police officers or not and we're freaking out. Oh, my God. I'm so sorry. We're in the Harris Teeter --
911: Does somebody have a gun or something?
Caller: Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!
911: Alright, what's your name?
Caller: I'm ------- -----------------
911: Who's chasing you?
911: Who's chasing you?
Caller: We, ok. So we were surrounded by like six people and they started flashing, well, they were yelling at us and then we, like, didn't know if they were real police officers or not because they weren't in uniform and then they started holding up badges, but we didn't look at the badges because we were freaking out and so we started driving away. What should be do?
911: I would stop there, ok, because I think there actually are some ABC officials.
Caller: Ok, he said stop here. They are policemen. Can you crack the window?
911: (asking someone in room) Are there ABC agents there?
911: Are you out with them now?
Caller: Yes. What should we do?
911: Can I talk to one of them?
Caller: Yeah, can I , sir? (inaudible)
911: Hey this is 911, who are you guys with?
ABC: This is John Taylor with ABC.
911: Ok, that's what I, that's what I thought you might have been. They were really scared. I don't think they knew you were cops.
ABC: All right, well, everybody's showing badges and everything, and soon as we got in front of them they pulled up and tried to run over people.
ABC: That's enough, I appreciate it, thank you.
911: All right. Thanks.