State Alcoholic Beverage Control agents erred in their arrest of a University of Virginia student wrongly suspected of buying beer while underage, an agency commissioner said Friday.
"This whole thing has embarrassed these people who have worked here all these years, all because of the poor judgment of six agents in that one incident," said Sandra Canada, an ABC commissioner listed behind only Chairman J. Neal Insley on the agency organization chart. Both were appointed to the board by Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Canada said the agency is engaging in introspection as the public awaits the results of state police and internal reviews of the case.
It was the first public acknowledgement by ABC of errors in agents' actions in the April 11 arrest of Elizabeth Daly, 20, who spent a night and an afternoon in jail after six plainclothes agents confronted her and two sorority roommates in the Barracks Road Shopping Center parking lot. The women were carrying sparkling water that the agents mistook for beer. One of the agents pulled a gun.
The women said they didn't realize the agents were law enforcement officers. Daly drove off in her SUV, grazing two agents, ABC said. Authorities charged her with two felony counts of assaulting a law enforcement officer and a felony count of eluding police.
Prosecutors withdrew the charges June 27, but the story fueled national outrage when it appeared in The Daily Progress the following day.
A week later, the agency announced that it had changed policy to require a uniformed agent to act as a "contact person" in undercover operations like the one that landed Daly in jail. Plainclothes agents now must be accompanied by an officer wearing an overgarment marked "Police," ABC said.
A half-dozen other changes could be on the way, state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, said following a July meeting with ABC Chief Operating Officer Curtis Coleburn.
Deeds said he could not recall the details of those changes, but he thinks the agency is taking the right steps to address the situation.
"In a perfect world, what I'd like to see is the Virginia State Police give some recommendations and ABC incorporate some of those changes in their operating procedures," Deeds said.
ABC officials said Friday that they would not comment on additional changes until after state police complete a review of the case.
State police will make findings of fact and turn those results over to ABC, but the report will not include recommendations, a state police spokeswoman said last month.