Felony charges were dropped on Thursday against a 20-year-old University of Virginia student who says she panicked when undercover agents from the state's Alcohol Beverage Control division mistook her water purchase for beer.
According to Charlottesville (Va.) Daily Progress, the student, Elizabeth Daly, was walking to her car on April 11 at approximately 10:15 p.m. with a box of sparkling water, cookie dough and ice cream she had just bought from a local supermarket when the agents—six men and one woman, all in plainclothes—approached suspecting the box, a blue carton of LaCroix sparkling water, to be a 12-pack of beer. One jumped on the hood of her SUV; another pulled out a gun, Daly said, as her roommates seated inside looked on in horror.
"They were showing unidentifiable badges after they approached us, but we became frightened, as they were not in anything close to a uniform," Daly wrote in an account submitted to the court. "I couldn't put my windows down unless I started my car, and when I started my car they began yelling to not move the car, not to start the car. They began trying to break the windows. My roommates and I were ... terrified."
Daly's roommate in the front passenger seat told her to "go, go, go"—and that's what she did, apparently "grazing" two of the agents in the process.
The students called 911 as they left the parking lot, police said, and were pulled over by another agent driving a vehicle with lights and sirens, Charlottesville Commonwealth Attorney Dave Chapman told the paper.
Daly apologized when she realized who they were, Chapman said, but agents arrested Daly and charged her with two counts of assaulting a law enforcement officer and one count of eluding police—each carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison and $2,500 in fines. She spent the night in Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.
"This has been an extremely trying experience," Daly wrote. "It is something to this day I cannot understand or believe has come to this point."
Either can Chapman.
"It wouldn't be the right thing to do to prosecute this," he said.
Nonetheless, Chapman "stood by the agents' decision to file charges, citing faith in a process that yielded an appropriate resolution."
"You don't know all the facts until you complete the investigation," he said.