After some cajoling from an energetic witness, a man who recently was run off his bicycle on East High Street filed a police report Tuesday morning and the officer taking the report says he has a suspect.
“I’ve got a primary person,” said Charlottesville Police Officer Rudy Burchardt. “I’d like to make contact with the person and see what they have to say about it.”
Surveillance video taken on the afternoon of Oct. 18, and shared on social media, showed a sedan traveling west on East High Street suddenly jerking out of its lane and into the cyclist’s path near Hazel Street. The video created angst and anger among bicyclists and pedestrian activists.
The resulting crash and the driver’s leaving the scene angered the bike rider, 37-year old Kenyon Barnes. He says he ruminated for several days about whether to file a police report and ultimately decided the incident warranted it.
“It was malicious,” said Barnes. “It was definitely done to violate another.”
He said he suffered a deep cut to a finger that he treated himself in order to avoid the fees imposed by a hospital emergency room. And he says that his turquoise battery-assisted bike had five spokes broken by the incident, which catapulted him into a nearby bush after the impact with the side of the car.
A witness has suggested that the car was a late-model, white Subaru Impreza that may have sustained paint and right-side mirror damage.
Barnes says his interaction with the driver began a few blocks east of the collision when he noticed a sedan driver revving his engine and driving erratically.
“I said, ‘Hey, what’s your rush? You’re heading up to a stoplight, bro.’”
Surveillance video supplied by the owner of Charlottesville Glass & Mirror shows what happened next. As Barnes attempted to take advantage of the clear bit of asphalt to the right of a stopped line of cars, including the one he viewed as erratic, that driver suddenly wheeled off the street and onto the sidewalk. Suddenly, Barnes had neither roadway nor sidewalk.
Charlottesville crossing guard Kevin Cox witnessed the event and can be seen on the video rushing over to Barnes. After Barnes pedaled away, Cox made it his mission to find him.
“I appreciate somebody looking out for me because otherwise I would have ignored it,” said Barnes, expressing a generally skeptical view of police efficacy as well as a love of humanity. “I don’t want to persecute my brother when I’m supposed to love him, but he done vile.”
In giving his statement to Burchardt Tuesday, Barnes expressed hope that his alleged assailant would be punished with community service. That may not be the case.
“It’s gonna be more of a serious charge than one with just community service,” replied Burchardt.
Virginia classifies hit-and-run that causes injury as a Class 5 felony, which can bring a one- to 10-year jail term.
Barnes made his report to Burchardt on River Road outside the office of SunDay Solar, where Barnes occasionally does contract work. Company executive Krister Briehl lauds Barnes for filing the report.
“I bike around as well,” said Briehl, “and I would not like someone who takes action like that against a biker on the road.”
As for Cox, the crossing guard, he says he’s “elated” that Barnes decided to come forward.
“It was really exciting to hear the police officer say he knew who the assailant was and that he would be having a conversation with him shortly,” said Cox. “I’m hoping that they do charge him and that the publicity serves as a deterrent to others who might try and intimate or menace bicyclists and pedestrians.”
Barnes says he hails from Buffalo, New York, and has made three bicycle circuits between Charlottesville and New York without any trouble from motorists. But in Charlottesville he says he’s been hit or forced from the road eight times. On the morning of filing his police report, he says an inattentive driver on Fontaine Avenue did it again.
“I don’t know what it is about Charlottesville,” said Barnes. “But it needs to stop.”