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Man behind December police chase gets 1.5 years

The man who led police on a late December high-speed chase that ended shortly after he struck an Albemarle County police car has been sentenced to a year and a half under home electronic incarceration.

Cristhian Norberto Lopez Gaviria, 24, received the sentence Wednesday in Albemarle Circuit Court after pleading guilty to three charges, including drunk driving.

“He took responsibility for his mistake and wants to comply with everything the court’s ordering,” the defendant’s lawyer, Travis Brinton, told The Daily Progress. “He apologized for his actions.”

Those actions, according to an Albemarle officer, began in the early morning hours of Dec. 31 as Charlottesville police began chasing an reportedly drunk driver and reached speeds exceeding 75 mph. After crossing the county line, Albemarle officers took over the pursuit, which culminated in a foot chase along Old Lynchburg Road. But not before a police vehicle was struck.

“He just rammed 110’s vehicle and attempted to ram mine,” an officer could be heard saying on police radio at the time of the incident.

Albemarle officer Kyle D. White asserted in his written report that the other officer’s vehicle was hit after activating his emergency lights.

“The suspect accelerated quickly and rammed the front of AP110’s vehicle with the side of his,” White wrote.

White reported that the suspect’s vehicle quickly sped to 50 mph as it headed toward his parked cruiser.

“The vehicle appeared to be aiming to hit me,” White wrote. “I had to put the [cruiser] in drive and stomp on the gas up into a driveway in order for me to avoid getting hit.”

Shortly after renewing the chase, White wrote, he encountered a crashed vehicle around a bend in the 2400 block of Old Lynchburg Road. It was then that a foot pursuit commenced through the woods.

“I ordered the subject multiple times to get down on the ground,” White wrote. “He refused and continued to run through the woods.”

Back by the cars with the now-captured Lopez Gaviria, White said the suspect initially refused to give his name.

“I could smell a strong odor of alcoholic beverage coming from his person, and his eyes were red and glassy,” White wrote. “There was an opened beer bottle almost completely empty in the passenger seat.”

In his plea agreement filed with the court in May, Lopez Gaviria agreed to plead guilty to drunk driving plus two felonies, eluding police and failure to stop at an accident. A fourth charge was dropped.

“In exchange for my waiver of Preliminary Hearing in General District Court, the Commonwealth moved to nolle prosequi a charge of Refusal to Provide Breath Test,” according to the plea.

The full sentence for the two felonies was 10 years with all suspended except for 1.5 on the eluding charge. The drunk driving charge brought a 30-day sentence with all of it suspended. The plea allows allows him to serve his sentence outside of jail by wearing an electronic monitor.

Additional conditions include a year of good behavior, a year of supervised probation, a $250 fine and the one-year loss of his driver’s license, although the agreement appears to allow him to operate a motor vehicle equipped with a breath-activated ignition interlock.

No stranger to the local courts, Lopez Gaviria has prior convictions for drunk driving, reckless driving, driving on a suspended license and noncompliance with Offender Aid and Restoration.

Brinton, his lawyer, contended that the details about targeting the police cars could use some revision.

“His intention was to get around the police cars,” Brinton told The Daily Progress. “It was was a narrow road, and he was trying to get past in his impaired condition.”

Brinton noted that the plea agreement allowed the court to charge restitution for the automobile damage but that during the sentencing hearing that option was waived.


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