ABC On the Prowl

Three months ago, a 20-year old college student named Elizabeth Daly was leaving the Harris Teeter in Charlottesville, Virginia with some bottled water. Suddenly, a bunch of men in plain clothes jumped out, yelling and waving guns. Daly tried to drive away and called 9/11, who realized these were agents of Virginia’s Alcohol Beverage Control. They thought she had done some underage alcohol purchasing. Once that was sorted out, they let her go.

Haha! I’m just kidding. They actually tossed her in jail for the night and charged her with assaulting an officer because she grazed one of the plainclothes gun-waving ABC agents with her car. The charges were finally dropped last week about the time the story went viral. And today, 911 calls were released that confirm that she thought she was being attacked by God-knows-whom and another from a bystander who thought she was being attacked by thugs. So far, everything confirms her version of events. And so far, the ABC thinks their agents acted properly.

It tells you a lot about where we are in this country that if a bunch of armed men in plain clothes are running toward you and screaming, you should assume they are cops even if you’ve done nothing wrong. It tells you a lot that, in the shadow of Mr. Jefferson’s University, this would be considered a reasonable conversation:

Martha: “We should call the police! Some guy is running down the road, brandishing a gun and yelling about booze!”

Tom: “Don’t worry, Martha, that’s just an ABC agent. Someone may have sipped some wine.”

More from national treasure Radley Balko (whose book I just bought):

– Is it standard procedure for ABC agents to jump out on college students in the parking lots of stores that sell alcohol? (According to the local paper the Daily Progress, several other students were apprehended the same way.) Is it standard procedure for them to draw their weapons?

I lived in Charlottesville for six years and frequented the Harris Teeter late at night. To my recollection, they only sell beer and wine so mistaking bottled water for booze is kind of hard to do. Harris Teeter is just off campus in a strip mall with a very large parking lot. At night, it’s pretty quiet. It’s not exactly the streets of LA or something. There was no reason, no reason on Earth, why — even if we assume busting 20-year-olds for drinking is a good idea — this couldn’t have been handled two agents in uniform walking up to her and asking for ID. In fact, I’ve seen ABC agents do it that way.

This is only the latest incident in the creeping use of more police force to enforce increasingly petty crimes. In fact, just a couple weeks ago, a dozen government officials — some of them armed police officers — raided the Family Wash bar in Nashville in what police claim was an inspection to be sure the business was complying with the state’s alcohol regulations. Owner Jamie Rubin told the Tennessean, “They may want to call it a ‘spot check.’ But you can talk to anybody that was in there – employees, patrons – it was a raid. That’s what it was.”

Balko lists a few more episodes. You really should read the whole thing.

Several thoughts emerge and I’ll coalesce them into what I would do were I a state legislator in Virginia.

First, I would cut ABC’s enforcement budget by two-thirds. Busting underage purchasers requires one agent, maybe two. If they had six for this, they clearly have three times as many agents as they need. Oh Hal!, you wail, it’s unfair of me to tar an agency based on one incident (even though this isn’t an isolated incident)? Well, that’s the same logic the bluenoses used when they justified raising the drinking age to 21 in the first place. And, as I have argued before, we clearly have a surplus of law in this country.

Second, I would move to lower the drinking age back to 18 or abolish it altogether. The federal government has been allowed to get away with its highway money blackmail for far too long. Abolish the drinking age and let them sue. Encourage other states to do the same. There has never been any evidence that the 21-year drinking age does anything other than create criminals. The federal government doesn’t have the stones to back down; maybe a rebellion by the states could do it.

None of that will happen, of course. As I’ll argue in tonight’s post, America has become a nation of sheep led by sheep. Cuts to ABC won’t happen because “OMG! Kids!” And the drinking age won’t be lowered because “OMG! Kids!!!” And I doubt the paramilitary tactics used will be reigned in because, “OMG! Criminals!”

So listen to that 911 call. Because eventually, we will all be experiencing it. Unless we wake the hell up.

Comments are closed.

  1. Seattle Outcast

    As always, a public lynching appears to be in order.

    Seriously, how much of this type of shit do you think we’d see if wanton abuse of authority carried a mandatory death sentence?

    Hot! Thumb up 7

  2. Mississippi Yankee

    I lived in Charlottesville for six years and frequented the Harris Teeter late at night. To my recollection, they only sell beer and wine so mistaking bottled water for booze is kind of hard to do.

    Actually, depending on which web site you read this story, it was “canned water”. I haven’t seen any since Katrina but it come in a 12oz can. Yanno sorta like beer.

    I’m not saying the ABC had any right to harass this ‘delicate little flower’ but for people to misconstrue the appearance of bottled water and water in a 12oz can seems a bit like an agenda driven story. Coming from the likes of Balko I’m not at all surprised.
    Form the Narrative around your assumptions.

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  3. Technomad

    I’m at a loss to understand how this highway-money blackmail is Constitutional, or why it’s been permitted. We in Iowa told the Fedscum to go f*ck themselves when they tried that stunt with requiring motorcycle helmets, and the world didn’t come to an end.

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  4. Hal_10000 *

    Actually, depending on which web site you read this story, it was “canned water”. I haven’t seen any since Katrina but it come in a 12oz can. Yanno sorta like beer.

    1) I’m doubtful; 2) I doubt in comes in six-packs or boxes; 3) your point being? I’ve lived in college towns for 23 years. I’ve seen cops bust kids for buying. I’ve never seen them roll out six plain-clothed officers with guns drawn. And I’ve never seen the need for it.

    In case you doubt the narrative, listen to the 911 calls.

    Thumb up 5

  5. Miguelito

    Actually, depending on which web site you read this story, it was “canned water”. I haven’t seen any since Katrina but it come in a 12oz can. Yanno sorta like beer.

    perrieir maybe?

    My friends brother In law left a bunch of cans at my place after a poker game and they were 12oz green cans.

    Thumb up 2

  6. HARLEY

    The officers do not know the difference between beer and “canned” water, which he would have to go to the check out place on the counter and but………………..but they do know that she is under 21, because?What, she didnt show id,? at the counter?>/ or?
    ………sounds like some one really fucked the goat here.

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  7. Hal_10000 *

    The other aspect of this is that these kind of unnecessary confrontations do sometimes end up with people getting shot and killed. From Balko’s article:

    [Jonathan] Ayers was a Georgia pastor who made the mistake of counseling and ministering to troubled women who also happened to be under investigation for drug offenses. In 2009, an undercover team of cops who had the woman under surveillance saw Ayers pick her up and give her some money. Ayers was actually giving her the cash out of his wallet to help pay her rent, so she wouldn’t be evicted. But suspecting they now had a more upscale suspect, the police followed Ayers as he left the motel where the woman was staying. They followed him to a convenience store, where withdrew some cash from an ATM.

    When Ayers returned to his car, a black SUV screeched into the parking lot, and a team of narcotics cops toting guns and dressed in street clothes ran at his car. Ayers threw the car into reverse and attempted to escape. The police opened fire, killing Ayers. According to a nurse at the hospital where he died, Ayers’ last words were that he thought he was about to be robbed.

    The cops were cleared of any wrong-doing. This could very easily have ended with this 20-year-old’s head blown off. Over fucking bottled water.

    Thumb up 10

  8. Mississippi Yankee

    1) I’m doubtful; 2) I doubt in comes in six-packs or boxes; 3) your point being?

    My point is… water comes in 12oz cans. The very first article I read ( not some talking head lib) was that THESE were 12oz CANS of water. And as I said there were thousands of these CANS down here after Katrina. And they came in 4 six-packs to a 24 count flat boxes exactly like beer. Turns out you can still buy water in cans to this very day.

    What I am saying is that over reacting gubmit agents combined with a jack-rabbiting minor leaves a lot of blame to go around. Add to that an uber-libertarian mouth piece like Balko misconstruing some of the facts to make HIS point (combined with your idol worship).
    And we thought only the MSM had a bias.

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  9. Technomad

    Even if it was underage drinking, an armed response strikes me as way overreacting. And if they were in plainclothes, how was she to know they were cops and not some sort of gang?

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  10. Mississippi Yankee

    The other aspect of this is that these kind of unnecessary confrontations do sometimes end up with people getting shot and killed. From Balko’s article:

    Ah yes, anecdotal evidence wins the case every time. Mea Culpa

    sarc off

    Even if it was underage drinking, an armed response strikes me as way overreacting. And if they were in plainclothes, how was she to know they were cops and not some sort of gang?

    Really? Plain-clothed ABC agents mistaken for gang members? Don’t you think that’s a bit of a reach all in an effort to defend our Town Crier?

    Thumb up 1

  11. Poosh

    I am reminded of the scene in V for Vendetta when the Fingerman shoots that little girl. Only, obviously, the ABC agents didn’t get what they deserved.

    This really is insane.

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  12. Xetrov

    Police consider a vehicle a “deadly weapon”, so that will be their justification for guns drawn. It’s overkill and asinine. Somebody should get fired, but it won’t happen.

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