Officer Texting Before Hitting Wheelchair-Bound Man

Remember Gerry Mitchell—the wheelchair-bound AIDS survivor who was ticketed by Charlottesville Police after he was hit by an Albemarle Police cruiser in late 2007? (He was ticketed in the hospital, since he’d been hospitalized with his injuries.) Charges of jaywalking were dropped a couple of weeks later, and a few weeks after that, video of the incident was made public. Mitchell sued police for negligence, malicious prosecution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress in June of 2009, and that was the last news in the matter.

It turns out that the police officer behind the wheel was engaged in “excessive texting” immediately prior to hitting Mitchell, Courteney Stuart writes for The Hook. That information came out as a result of the civil suit. Officer Gregory C. Davis obfuscated this information back in August 2009, early in the lawsuit, disclosing only that “[o]n another occasion I was found to have used my cell phone excessively,” without calling up that occasion came immediately prior to his hitting Mitchell.

What hasn’t been established here is whether the officer was texting at the very moment that he hit Mitchell—that is, whether it’s actually the cause of the accident. Note, too, that § 46.2-1078.1 of the Virginia Code prohibits texting while driving, but it doesn’t apply here because a) wasn’t law until a year and a half after the incident and b) has an exemption for “the operator of any emergency vehicle.”

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