Well-known local artist and AIDS survivor Gerry Mitchell was knocked out of his wheelchair by a police cruiser earlier this month, and then received a ticket for jaywalking (rolling?).
Courteney Stuart explains in this week’s Hook that Mitchell was returning home from a shopping trip to Reid’s when he stopped to wait to cross West Main at 4th. When the light turned green, he progressed across the street. Halfway across, a police car hit him from behind, hurling him from his motorized wheelchair and into the street. The apologetic Albemarle County police officer Gregory Davis leapt from his car to help, as did a pedestrian. Bleeding from his limbs, Mitchell consented to be taken to the hospital by ambulance. A city officer came to visit him a few hours later, a ticket in hand.
The press only learned about this because a bystander contacted The Hook. Mitchell just wants an apology and, presumably, the ticket to be dropped. Obviously, Officer Davis didn’t deliberately run into a man in a wheelchair, but the decision to ticket his victim quite literally added insult to injury. (Attorney Debbie Wyatt speculates that this was deliberate — as with the recent case of the officer nearly running down pedestrians on Water Street, in which he charged two of them with crimes, both of which they were acquitted of.)
Given the press attention to that other recent cruiser/pedestrian incident, the timing for this couldn’t be worse. The victim likewise couldn’t have been worse: it’s not just that he’s a man in a wheelchair, but an enormously well-known, well-respected, well-spoken man with an unimpeachable reputation. The smartest thing for the county police to do in this case would be to get the city police tear up the ticket, apologize, and move on. Let’s see how circuitous their path to that obvious solution proves to be.