The voices of the women are panicked.
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. We’re really sorry,” the caller says in a 911 recording released Thursday by the regional emergency communications center for the Charlottesville area.
The caller was one of three women confronted by plainclothes Alcoholic Beverage Control agents at about 10:15 p.m. April 11 outside the Harris Teeter store in the Barracks Road Shopping Center.
Agents suspected one of the women was underage and carrying a case of beer, ABC said. Instead, it was LaCroix sparkling water. The women said they didn’t know the agents were officers. Six agents closed in at the height of the incident. One drew a gun.
Frightened, University of Virginia student Elizabeth Daly, 20, drove her and her roommates out of the lot, grazing two agents with her SUV, according to court records.
None was hurt, but that netted Daly a night in jail on charges that were withdrawn more than two months later. The case has cast ABC into a storm of scrutiny since word of it broke in The Daily Progress a week ago.
ABC officials said last week they are reviewing the incident for a second time. The frantic call, placed from the SUV as the women drove off planning to find a police station, helped spur prosecutors to drop the case.
“We are surrounded by, like, six people,” the caller says shortly after the call begins, “and they started flashing what they – were yelling at us, and then, we didn’t know if they were real police officers or not because they weren’t in uniform. And they started holding up badges, but we didn’t look at the badges, because we were freaking out and we started driving away. What should we do?”
The dispatcher calmly advises the caller that “ABC officials” are working the area.
“I would stop there,” the dispatcher says.
After the women stop, the dispatcher asks to speak with an agent. One answers, identifying himself as John Taylor. John Taylor is listed in ABC records as the special agent in charge of the agency’s regional office in Staunton. A call to the office reached his voice mailbox.
“They were really scared,” the dispatcher tells him. “I don’t think they knew you were cops.”
“All right,” the agent answers. As the dispatcher chuckles, the agent adds, “Well, everybody’s showing badges and everything and she stood there right in front of them and they pulled off trying to run over people."
Authorities charged Daly with two counts of assaulting a law enforcement officer and one count of eluding police, all Class 6 felonies carrying maximum penalties of five years in prison and $2,500 in fines for each offense. She spent a night and afternoon in Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.
In addition to sparkling water, Daly and her roommates purchased cookie dough and ice cream that night for a sorority benefit fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association.
Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman said the 911 recording influenced his decision to withdraw the case.
"The officers could definitely see that they were panicking, and their observations corroborate what the [call] shows was going on in the car," he said last week. "It does not accomplish anything to charge this woman in this situation."
Neither Daly nor the woman on the recording responded to requests for comment.
Chapman's office and the ABC have copies of the recording, according to the operations manager for the regional emergency communications center.
In addition to the 911 call placed from Daly’s call, the regional emergency communications center released a recording of another call, this one from a man reporting that he saw “a gun being pulled” in the Barracks Road Shopping Center.
"I'm really prone to panic attacks, so I kind of drove away," the man told the dispatcher.
Reached Thursday at the phone number provided on the recording to the emergency communications worker, the man said he was parked about two car lengths away from the women when agents descended on the SUV.
“They came up to the car swiftly and very aggressively,” he said, of the agents’ approach. “I was close enough to hear and they weren’t saying anything about who they were, just yelling at the people to get out of the car.”
The man asked not to be identified due to the level of attention the case has received. He said he received a return phone call April 11 explaining that the incident was part of an ABC operation, but was never asked to give a statement or contacted as part of an investigation.
ABC officials have acknowledged that one of the agents “unholstered” his gun. He did not point the weapon at anyone, officials said. Officials have not answered questions about whether his actions complied with agency policy.
In a written statement provided to The Daily Progress, a passenger in Daly’s SUV said a man covered in tattoos and dressed in dark clothing appeared to trail the women as they walked to the vehicle. Then a man in a black Volcom T-shirt approached her side of the SUV and yelled for her to get out, eventually drawing his gun during the exchange, she said.
Daly’s front-seat passenger said she was on edge after returning from an event in which sexual assault survivors recounted their attacks.
An initial ABC review of the incident cleared the six agents involved of wrongdoing, agency spokeswoman Maureen Haney has said.
ABC officials said public outcry after news of the case broke in The Daily Progress last week prompted the agency to launch a second review. The results will be delivered to Secretary of Public Safety Marla Decker, a member of Gov. Bob McDonnell's cabinet, according to Tucker Martin, a spokesman for the governor.
ABC has declined to identify the agent who drew his weapon.