A couple’s late night stroll on the Christmas-lit Downtown Mall turned to terror in the early morning hours of Friday, December 20, when they were brutally assaulted by three men in what appears to have been a random act of violence.
Even though one of the victims, Jeanne Doucette, managed to take photos that appear to show the assailants as they kicked and pummeled her boyfriend Marc Adams to unconsciousness, Charlottesville Police still do not have any suspects. Doucette says there were other witnesses to the crime, which allegedly occurred just outside the Wells Fargo building at around 1am as she and Adams walked from Miller’s to Rapture, and she is baffled as to why the police haven’t shared her images more widely with people who could have seen the suspects earlier in the evening.
“I cannot understand why they didn’t let people know what happened,” said Doucette, who still bore injuries from the assault when she met for an interview a week later. “Those pictures might have prompted some tips.”
The images she captured are blurry but nonetheless appear to corroborate her account of the night’s events, including the brutality of the beating, during which she says the assailants joked and laughed, even stopping to hug in the midst of the onslaught.
Doucette said the assault occurred after she and Adams, both 39, had met for a drink at Miller’s after Adams finished his shift as chef for a downtown food cart. They headed east up the Mall toward Rapture to end their night with music, when Adams tripped and fell in front of Derriere de Soie lingerie store, a block from Miller’s. As he was getting up, a man approached quickly, said something that Doucette couldn’t make out, and kicked Adams while he was on the ground, before being joined by his friends who beat Adams severely, breaking his ankle, cracking ribs and knocking out one of his teeth.
The grainy photos that Doucette took with her phone (posted below story) show the faces and clothing worn by the three alleged assailants, all black males. Doucette estimated the men were approximately 6’ tall and in their mid-20s or early 30s. In one photo, Adams is lying on his back on the Mall with a man looming over him. Doucette said the man was kicking Adams when she took the picture. In another picture, a large man in a black coat and light colored shirt appears to be moving towards Doucette’s camera as Adams is on his knees in the background.
While Doucette suffered bruising to her head and tearing of the cartilage in her ear, Adams bore the brunt of the men’s aggression, sustaining broken bones and a concussion that he said has robbed him of any memory of the incident and its immediate aftermath.
Flooded with fear and adrenaline, Doucette said, she reacted quickly after the assault began, confronting the first assailant.
“I came up and pushed him away and said, ‘What are you doing?’” she recalled.
The incident escalated when the man responded by striking her.
“The guy hits me repeatedly in the ear,” she said. “My earring was stabbing me in the head over and over.”
Two other men soon joined in the beating, Doucette said, and while they primarily focused on Adams, a local musician who at 5’5″ and 140 pounds was outsized and outnumbered, they would occasionally strike her.
“When he’d tell them to stop hitting me, they’d hit me twice,” said Doucette, who is 5’2″.
Doucette said she and Adams repeatedly tried to escape, but the assault continued east up the Mall and stopped in front of the Wells Fargo bank. Doucette said she threw her purse at the men, hoping that when they saw the cash inside they’d simply take the money and leave, but they had no apparent interest in robbing her. Instead, she said, they seemed to delight in the brutality.
“They were laughing, high-fiving, hugging, and then returning to kick him,” said Doucette. “There was some kind of camaraderie to it.”
The men were accompanied by a woman, who Doucette said repeatedly screamed at them to stop. The men ignored her pleas. Doucette said she had never seen the men before and there was nothing in her behavior or Adams’ that would have provoked the assault. Both victims wondered whether the episode was an example of the so-called “knock-out game,” in which assailants randomly strike an innocent passerby with the goal of rendering them unconscious. Several such assaults have resulted in the deaths of victims. Adams and Doucette checked Youtube for videos of their own assault in the days after it happened, but have found nothing. The cheerful demeanor of their attackers, however, has them wondering if they were targets of some kind of game.
“Maybe if we had played dead, they would have stopped,” said Adams. “If the point of the knockout game is to knock out, we kept getting up to help each other. We didn’t play right.”
Adams describes himself as a “passive person,” and while he said the head injury erased his memory of the attack, he doesn’t believe he could have said anything to provoke the men’s wrath.
“He’s the most non-confrontational person I know,” Doucette agreed.
The attack finally stopped after Doucette started taking pictures with her cell phone and several passersby appeared to be calling 911. By the time police arrived several minutes later, Doucette said, the assailants were gone. Adams, who had been briefly knocked unconscious, refused to be transported by ambulance to the hospital that night despite Doucette’s and emergency responders’ urgings. He also declined to be interviewed by police, although he called the next day to add his report to the information given to police by Doucette.
“My brain was messed up,” he said, repeating what Doucette has told him about his post-assault behavior. “I kept saying I wanted to go home.”
The next morning, Adams said, he did go to the hospital. In addition to the concussion and facial bruising including a black eye, x-rays confirmed his cracked ribs and fractured ankle. Nearly two weeks after the attack, the physical wounds are healing, but both Doucette and Adams are troubled by what they see as a lack of response from the Charlottesville Police Department.
“It’s like they don’t care,” said Doucette, who said she called police on December 29 to follow up on the investigation and was told that the case had been suspended due to a lack of information and had not been assigned to a detective. “I don’t understand why they couldn’t even have the courtesy to call and say we’re not even going to look for them,” she said.
According to CPD spokesperson Ronnie Roberts, investigators canvassed the Downtown area after the assault but did not find anyone matching the description of the alleged assailants. Police did not release Doucette’s pictures to the public, Roberts said, because they believed surveillance video from the bank might offer clearer images, and they hoped officers might recognize some of the men in Doucette’s photos without tipping them off that they were being sought.
Roberts said police requested the bank video on Friday, December 27, a week after the attack, and had not received it as of Sunday, December 29. On Sunday, Doucette finally posted the pictures she’d taken to her Facebook page and said she quickly received several tips that she has passed on to police. Her frustration at the lack of an investigation is palpable.
“I feel forgotten about,” Doucette said. “I feel like I’m not safe.”