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Charge dropped after multijurisdiction, military-style 'drug bust' on Charlottesville residence

The single drug possession charge lodged against a Charlottesville woman after a military-style raid shut down Charlton Avenue one morning in late February has been dropped.

The case against 55-year-old Shena Marie Bowers was “nolle prossed,” meaning the prosecution is unwilling to proceed, Thursday, but the damage lives on.

“I went to the Burger King, and some guy acted like he knew me from seeing me on TV,” said Bowers. “They put my picture and my full name out there.”

The issues went beyond recognition.

“I lost my housing voucher,” she said. “I’ve got to try to reboot my life again.”

The crux of the problem, she said in a tearful post-hearing interview, is that she was innocent.

“I had nothing on me,” Bowers told The Daily Progress. “If I had anything to hide, why would I open the door?”

Her arrest warrant claimed to have found a baggie that tested positive for cocaine, but Bowers said that any drugs found in that Rose Hill apartment did not belong to her. She said she had been there, staying with a friend for just four days, when on the morning of Feb. 27 a phalanx of officers with a canine and a military-grade vehicle showed up with a search warrant.

“A big drug bust,” was how a local television anchor introduced the CBS19 story, alleging that Bowers had been charged with drug distribution. 29News repeated the same allegation. The arrest warrant, however, only charged Bowers for possession.

“When they make these reports, they need to be more accurate,” Bowers said. “It’s just wrong.”

The misinformation appears to have stemmed from a Virginia State Police statement. But even on the day the charge was dropped, two months after the raid, both local television stations still had the incorrect charging information about Bowers on their websites.

“You can’t just throw lies out there,” said Bowers.

Corinne Geller, the spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, has offered no apology, nor has she issued a revised statement.

The raid was conducted by a multijurisdictional group called the 3A Regional Drug and Gang Task Force that brings together the resources of the state police, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and local agencies.

Bowers had been evicted from a previous apartment, which was why, she said, she was staying with the friend on Charlton. She blames an ex-partner for the commotion that got her kicked out of her prior apartment.

Suffering from severe and advancing arthritis, her stride into Charlottesville General District Court Thursday was labored.

“I can barely walk some days,” she said.

In dropping the charge, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Nina-Alice Antony told Judge Andrew Sneathern that Bowers was “fully in compliance” with her bail provisions and that it made sense to drop the charge in keeping with her office’s goal of “stabilizing the community.”

But for Bowers, the trouble stemming from the criminal charge may be pushing her out of that same community. She’s already moved in with her brother in Lynchburg.

Bowers recalls when she moved to Charlottesville several years ago from Portsmouth she would savor a bicycle ride to an elevated vantage point in the Belmont neighborhood. She found a resemblance to the fictional town of Bedrock from a popular 1960s animated television series.

“It was so pretty. It reminded me of the ‘Flintstones,’” she said. “Now I don’t want to be here.”


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