Officer blamed: Police ticket own in pedestrian incident

The last time an Albemarle County Police cruiser and a pedestrian tangled, it was the pedestrian who got the ticket in an incident that gave law enforcement a black eye and a lawsuit. This time, following a January 13 accident, it's the Albemarle County officer who's facing a charge.

On January 24, eleven days after the incident left a jogger with minor injuries, officer Caroline Ann Morris, 35, was cited for failure to yield the right of way for allegedly striking the man at the eastbound off-ramp of Interstate 64 and Fifth Street Extended.

Prior to Morris' citation, which was filed by Albemarle Corporal Jonathan Shenk, the Hook spoke with the victim, 41-year-old Albemarle County teacher Carlos Pezua. While Pezua declined to confirm one of his friend's allegations that he was tossed up on the hood of the cruiser in the approximately 5:30pm incident, he noted that he was satisfied with the post-crash conduct of Morris and the investigating officers, calling them "courteous and professional."

So why did it take nearly two weeks to issue a ticket?

"Sometimes, there is clear evidence that would cause an officer to bring forth charges immediately," says County police spokesperson Darrell Byers. "Other times, we confer with the Commonwealth's Attorney."

While Byers says a police officer wouldn't receive preferential treatment from department colleagues, he acknowledges that investigating an officer is different from investigating a civilian.

"You've got parallel investigations," explains Byers, citing the criminal justice investigation and the administrative portion,  an internal affairs investigation, which, he says, is ongoing. This would not be the first time Morris was involved in an internal investigation; two years ago, she was demoted after an unspecified episode involving four County officers.

In 1995, a drug officer now working as an Albemarle detective, John Baber, struck and killed a pedestrian on Rio Road, but a check of court records shows no evidence of criminal or civil charges in the wake of that accident. In 2007, an Albemarle officer struck and killed a pedestrian on West Rio Road, and this pedestrian's combination of dark clothing, cellphone distraction, as well as the lack of a crosswalk, contributed to clearing Sergeant Pam Greenwood of any criminal responsibility.

More controversially in 2007, Charlottesville Police required little time to decide that it was the wheelchair-bound pedestrian responsible for getting hit in a daytime accident caught on dashcam video. The citizen, Gerry Mitchell, was thrown from his chair after getting struck in a crosswalk by an Albemarle County Police cruiser driven by Officer Gregory C. Davis.

On the day of that incident, a city officer, accompanied by Davis, ticketed Mitchell in his hospital bed, an action prompting public outrage and, eventually, a lawsuit by Mitchell against the City of Charlottesville, ticketing officer Steve Grissom, and Officer Davis.

Four years after the incident and two months before his death, Mitchell settled with the county for an undisclosed sum after evidence surfaced that Davis had been texting furiously in the moments leading up to the accident. Byers says the wheelchair case has had no impact on how County police handle investigations involving one of their own.

As for Pezua, he says he has no interest in suing the Police. He notes that Officer Morris was not on a telephone and that the dwindling sunlight and his own dark clothing made what happened understandable.

"Accidents happen," says Pezua. "I hope all it does is raise awareness for everyone to be more careful."

–story updated Tuesday, January 31 with mention of the 1995 fatality and replacement of a file photo of a police car with an image from Albemarle's police recruitment video.


There will never be a conviction. And in this particular case, there shouldn't be. The pedestrian admits he was wearing dark clothing.

I agree with Pezua, I hope it raises awareness for everyone to be more careful too. Including pedestrians, who should watch for cars and never assume a driver sees them.

Again, I am curious...As the department complains about short-staffing and less-than-stellar response times--and we have a highly-paid county communications director in the esteemed and erudite Ms. Catlin--why the heck are we wasting a commanding officer's time being the police spokesperson? Didn't I see an article in "Le Hooque" where the ACPD chief traffic investigator was complaining that his investigators were losing sleep due to their case loads?
As the Cville Council should not spend one second worrying about US war efforts, Byers should not spend one second prepping public statements.
R.I.P.: Linda Lovelace

I despise that the Hook reports these incidents and then lumps all similar together in their report. In this latest incident, the jogger was not in dark clothing and he did have the right of way. Officer Morris has been sited.

The other incident the victim had dark clothing, was talking on their cell phone and walking across a 4 lane road (Rio) with no crosswalk.

Courtney - you need to clarify this because comments by the "average Joe" out there get quite odd - ie - Gasbag's comment!

As for Pezua, he says he has no interest in suing the Police. He notes that Officer Morris was not on a telephone and that the dwindling sunlight and his own dark clothing made what happened understandable.

Nice to hear someone at least accept part of the blame when they know the other party may not be 100% at fault.

While wearing bright clothing, anticipating poor driving habits, and ceding the right-of-way when some chowder head makes a bonehead move are all wise, failing to do so does not absolve a driver of the duty to drive attentively. Too many drivers work far too hard to find ways to blame the victim around here.

Truth Hurts, what are you talking about? My comment? This story very clearly says that the man Caroline Morris hit admits he had dark clothing on.

I suspect 98% of pedestrians who are hit are wearing dark clothing. Black clothing seems to be the style now. Black pants. Black dresses. Black coats. People are no longer tauhgt by their parents to wear light clothing if they are going to be near or crossing roadways. Just like 98% of the population can't cook the way my grandmothers did. Do parents teach their kids anything nowadays?

Could the photographer of this file photo at least have gotten out of the car to get a photo of the police cars. Gosh, they want to be called "photojournalists" instead of camerapersons or photographers, but then they give us slop like this. Ugh!
R.I.P.: Bobby Darin

Fess up, Liberalace! You just want a real nice picture of the LAPD wannabe cars!

R.I.P.: Steve Benson, age 47, Jan 22, 2012 Virginia State Police

She shouldn't have gotten a ticket, cops have discretion in regards to issuing tickets. The accident report (FR-300) would show her at fault which is more than enough for civil liability. However anyone wearing dark clothing while PT'ing in the evening should be cited as well in my opinion. The Chief Sellers bowing to political pressure and allowing that officer to get cited, has lost all trust and confidence in his department. I am sure his officers despise him now. I guess he can lead that department by fear and intimidation, good luck on that. Like I said as long as the accident report is accurate, a ticket to the officer has no bearing on a civil settlement. Shame on you Sellers for cutting the limb off behind one of your officers. I guess the Board of Supervisors got what they wanted, a "yes man". I have never heard of an officer being cited for a traffic infraction while on duty unless it was "gross negligence'. Cops have enough to worry about without, being fried for a simple mistake. This should have been handled internally.

Will the hook post a picture of the police officer involved?

Doyle Hargraves:
Is that true about Sellers? After only one year? I was not naive enough to think he was nirvana, but is it dat bad?
R.I.P.: Ofc. Danny Faulkner

Dunno, ask someone who works there. Just never heard of an officer being charged for a simple traffic infraction unless it was gross negligence, which I doubt this was. Sellers is basically throwing this officer under the bus, when he could have handled this matter internally with a reprimand or suspension based on prior accidents by the officer. I imagine he got some worm trying to make Sergeant to issue the summons to her. I guess that officer's next stop is IAD where he can be with his own kind, because who wants to work beside a fellow officer who would write them a ticket. A police chief cannot order someone to issue a summons, he can only recommend it. It is still up to the officers discretion, which I imagine will result in either a promotion or favorable transfer for the corporal that cited Officer Morris. They should have just let the State Police investigate it, if they are so self conscious of impropriety. I doubt even a trooper would have wrote her a ticket, he would have just noted on the accident report that the officer failed to yield the right of way. Which is enough for this jogger in dark clothes at night to get at least 10K after the lawyers take their 40 percent cut in civil court.

Perhaps offensive walking should be discussed here.........they are roads, ya know.

Wasn't Officer Morris involved in another recent ACPD scandal? One that resulted in several officers (including the Chief) leaving the force?

Meanwhile... While watching the video I was thinking the exact same thing. By my count there were 4 or 5 officers fired or demoted because of involvement in the situation