The court date for the city man who was hit by an Albemarle Police car while crossing the street in his wheelchair—and then ticketed—has been moved to January 3. Gerry Mitchell appeared in Charlottesville General District Court on the morning of December 6, only to learn that the court had issued a continuance of his case.
Mitchell, a local painter, was hit while crossing W. Main Street where it intersects Fourth Street. The police car, which was turning left, hit him in the back, knocking him out of his wheelchair. He was taken to the UVA hospital, where he says city police informed him that he was being issued a ticket.
Gerry Mitchell says he was originally ticketed for failing to yield to a pedestrian. "So I failed to yield to myself," he says, "because I was the only one in the crosswalk."
That ticket, says Mitchell, was for failing to yield to a pedestrian, though he was alone in the crosswalk. (The intersection is in the city jurisdiction.)
"So I failed to yield to myself," he says, "because I was the only one in the crosswalk."
The charge, he learned when he got to court December 6, had been changed to failing to obey a pedestrian crossing signal.
His interaction with city police, Mitchell says, has been very frustrating. After he was hit, multiple officers arrived at the scene.
"I looked up and there was a sea of officers around us, eight or nine people," he says. "I couldn’t believe there was so many police there."
According to Ric Barrick, director of communications for the city, when county police are involved in incidences like traffic accidents, city police respond and the county officers are considered civilians.
When a witness to the accident tried to give Mitchell his contact information, Mitchell says that a city officer took the witness’s card away.
"He handed it to me, put it in my hand, and the police officer grabbed it out of my hand," he says. "It was like a struggle."
As he was taken to the hospital, his wheelchair was moved to the nearby grocery store, Feast. At the hospital, Mitchell says he asked the police officer how he would get home. The officer, according to Mitchell, said he would take him to Feast to pick up his wheelchair. But when Mitchell was released, the officer was not there.
"Then I got really angry," he says. "It was like ‘Godammit, they ran over me, damaged my wheelchair. I could have been killed. And they don’t have the decency to give me at least a lift.’"
Barrick declined to comment on the incident because it is still a pending legal matter. But he says if Mitchell has complaints about police treatment, he should file a formal complaint with the department. Those complaints are then investigated by the internal affairs unit of the police department.
As Mitchell awaits his January 3 court date, he is working on a show that will begin next month at Mudhouse. His right shoulder was fractured in the incident, and he is left trying to figure out how to complete the rest of the paintings for the show.
"My painting style has changed because I can hardly use my arms now," he says. "And it’s very frustrating because I had half of a show done and now I’m scrambling around, trying to figure out how I can paint because I can’t hold the brush very well. So the figures have all changed a great deal."
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