“I heard loud yelling and screaming.”
Crossing guard Kevin Cox said he knew something was amiss when he heard a bicyclist screaming angrily while pedaling uphill Tuesday afternoon on East High Street. In the blink of an eye, a car ahead of the cyclist suddenly appeared to jerk out of its lane and onto the sidewalk and into the cyclist’s path.
“I saw the cyclist hit the car,” said Cox.
So have thousands of others, thanks to surveillance videos which Cox obtained from a nearby store owner and then forwarded to the police and posted on various social media networks.
The videos show a man on a turquoise battery-assisted Veo rideshare bike come into view from the east. The car driver’s sudden action then forced the cyclist into the side of the car, up in the air, and into a nearby bush. The videos have provoked waves of outrage.
“Atrocious,” says Reddit user Cvillian87. “Driver should be charged with vehicular assault.”
One hurdle is that the driver hasn’t yet been identified. Cox said that the video shows the vehicle to be a late-model silver Subaru Impreza Sport. The video doesn’t seem to have sufficient resolution to clearly show the license plate, and Cox said that he didn’t obtain the license number when he rushed over to help the cyclist. He did, however, obtain something else.
“I have part of his side-view mirror,” said Cox, who says he collected the broken part from the street.
Cox said that a Charlottesville Police officer responded promptly after he placed a call to 911. But by then, he said, both the automobile driver and the cyclist, who was apparently unharmed, were gone.
“At this time, neither party involved has called in a crime or hit and run,” police spokesperson Kyle Ervin said in an email. “There is no suspect or victim, therefore, there is no active case regarding this incident.”
The Charlottesville Police Department recently announced that understaffing problems have meant that vandalism and other non-violent crimes must now be reported by citizens using an online form, and Cox said he doesn’t want to vilify the police.
“I think they’re too understaffed and too busy with murder and mayhem to address this issue,” said Cox, “so I think it’s up to the public to track this guy down.”
But Cox’s stance isn’t shared by everyone in the Twitterverse.
“This is a farce,” fumed UVa professor Steven L. Johnson on Twitter. “There is clear evidence of a deadly assault. The police have already decided they are unwilling to do anything to keep that driver from hurting someone else?”
While Johnson, who helps run an organization that urges safer streets, asserts that the lack of an active investigation fuels distrust of police, fellow pedestrian advocate Phil Varner saw things differently.
“Even if private video footage could be used to convict,” Varner tweeted, “it’s a scary precedent for cops to start tracking people down based on that.”
Charlottesville lawyer David Heilberg explains why video alone won’t typically lead to a conviction.
“The video can’t prove who did it,” said Heilberg. “Without a closeup image, there is no proof about who drove the car.”
Even with the license plate, Heilberg asserted, a vehicle owner will “predictably” deny being the driver. What’s needed, he says, is a witness there who can testify to the identity of the driver.
“Only a positive ID or driver admission could justify using the video,” concludes Heilberg.
The video came from Dwight Corle, the owner of Charlottesville Glass & Mirror, a home-supply shop facing Hazel Street on East High Street. He got a call from Cox Tuesday afternoon about the incident which time stamps indicate occurred at 2:52 p.m.
“When I looked at the video footage, I’m like, ‘Holy crap, I can’t believe this guy purposely hit this bicyclist,’” said Corle. “You can literally see him glance over at his rear view mirror, see this guy coming up beside him, and swerve up on the sidewalk to clip him when he went past, sending him headlong into the bushes.”
Corle says he began installing security cameras two years ago after several incidents, including the 2018 death of a pedestrian crushed between two cars next door at Jak ‘n Jill restaurant. He now has five cameras at the shop and is about to install a sixth.
The day after the incident, Cox said he was watching television when he suddenly felt inspired to find the driver. He went for a walk downtown and found the victim waiting for a bus on Market Street.
“I had a feeling I could find him, and 20 minutes later I was talking to him,” says Cox. “Finding him was an amazing piece of luck, or maybe it was karma.”
Cox said that he urged the victim to report the incident just as bus #11 whisked the man away. At press time the man, according to the city police, had not reported it.
But Cox isn’t finished with his mission. While the police, he said, declined to take possession of the broken mirror, Cox said he thinks it’s a powerful clue toward identifying the Subaru Impreza driver.
“I’m gonna start canvasing body shops tomorrow,” Cox said Thursday afternoon. “I’m gonna find that guy.”
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