Earlier this week, an Albemarle County resident told City Council about two reported assaults in the area around McGuffey Park, north of the Downtown Mall. The assaults, which occurred last Friday evening, involved “two victims,” the man said, and “a group of over 30 young people, young thugs.” The assaults are similar to a number that occurred during the past few years—in number of individuals involved, age of the assailants, and apparent randomness—and an alleged April assault near York Place.
According to Charlottesville Police Sgt. T.V. McKean, two groups traded words on the Downtown Mall on Friday evening. Some of the individuals reconvened near McGuffey Park, where a 19-year-old white male was jumped by what he later told police was a group of between 20 and 25 black males and females. The victim was treated for facial lacerations and then released; McKean said the extent of his injuries were not sufficient to upgrade assault charges from “simple” to “aggravated.”
“I’m not going to say that there is anything out of control at the park,” said McKean.
Police Chief Tim Longo confirmed that the suspects are school-aged. He said that city police are not aware of any prior coordination of the assault. He also said that police aren’t aware of a motive, though he added that in a second assault reported that evening, a victim’s iPod was taken.
Longo said that he has “never been shy about calling out what I believe to be gang-related behavior.” However, he said, “it would be premature to attribute the behavior to any particular group or groups of people without doing some additional follow-up.” One suspect is a teenaged black female, 5’3" to 5’8", with braided hair. An investigation into the assault remains ongoing.
As for location, the area around McGuffey has seen a handful of reported assaults since the start of the year, but most have taken place outside of the single-acre park, and closer to Market Street. The Charlottesville Police Department posts reported crimes at CrimeView, where they can be mapped according to location and date. Since January 1, there have been 10 assaults reported within 500’ of McGuffey, including the May 13 incident.
At nearby Lee Park, the same radius nets 20 reported assaults. Like McGuffey, however, most occurred south of Market Street and away from the park itself. Perhaps most surprising is Oakwood Cemetery, south of Monticello Avenue, where 16 assaults have been reported since the first of the year—many close to the periphery of the cemetery. A range of other city parks, from Azalea and Belmont to Darden Towe and Forest Hills, count between two and eight reported assaults within a 500’ perimeter.