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Aggravated assault report jumped the gun?

A day and a half after a widely-publicized report of a shooting and the release of a description of an alleged suspect, the Charlottesville Police Department claims that what happened around 7:44 p.m. Saturday in the 800 block of West Main Street was a self-inflicted shooting injury.

The information seems to contradict a University of Virginia Police Department alert that went out Saturday night warning of “an aggravated assault” and asserting that a male suspect wearing a black sweatshirt and blue jeans had “fled from the area.” The shooting happened on the same block as the Flats and the Standard, a pair of retail-fronted student-oriented apartment buildings.

Longtime Charlottesville lawyer David Heilberg finds the alert to be understandable given recent events.

“I won’t call it an overreaction,” Heilberg said, “but out of an excess of caution there’s going to be a more alert reaction whenever shots are fired in the neighborhoods where UVA kids are living.”

The UVa alert came after a particularly bloody fall that saw six fatal and 12 non-fatal gunshot victims in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. And it came less than three weeks after a mass-shooting claimed the lives of three student-athletes and injured two others aboard a bus returning from a field trip to Washington, D.C. Outpourings of grief poured in from across the country over the Nov. 13 attack on Culbreth Road.

“There really is a reaction to a tragedy like that,” Heilberg said. “Institutions are all sensitive to public perception.”

The only official piece of information that city police released came midday Monday, 40 hours after the incident. The release asserted that officers were “quickly” able to ascertain that the injury was self-inflicted and that it was not life-threatening.

Charlottesville police public information officer Kyle Ervin declined to provide more information, such as the condition of the person shot Saturday and whether or not their injury was intentional or accidental. UVa police did not respond to multiple phone calls.

The Monday release came the same day that Interim City Manager Michael Rogers tapped Michael Kochis as the city’s new police chief. CPD announced in early September that its roster of officers was 27 percent lower than its targeted size and that it would only take reports via online forms for certain crimes such as unsolicited phone calls, fraud, larceny, littering, lost property, suspicious activity and vandalism. The September release asserted that officers would continue to personally respond to emergency calls, to crimes in progress, and to larcenies of firearms and vehicles.

Daily Progress reporter Alice Berry contributed to this article.


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