Eye-witness discusses incident which sparked police probe

Onlooker talks about the now-viral story and what he left out of other interviews.

An automobile accident that occurred in Church hill in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday, March 2 has sparked an internal affairs investigation by the Richmond City Police Department and widespread accusations of a cover-up. For complete accounts of what took place, you can read coverage here and here.

S. Preston Duncan was originally at the scene on the 3000 block of Broad Street on Sunday morning after a collision with an unrelated intoxicated driver. It was after this initial collision that Duncan and other onlookers were nearly hit by the young female shown in this now-widespread cell phone video.

According to Duncan’s interview with WTVR:

…at least two witnesses heard the officer consent to speak with the girl’s father on her cellphone, at which point she made a call and handed it to him. Then approximately 30 minutes later witnesses said that a SUV arrived on scene, with a man and a woman inside. “Cut the camera off, son,” the man in a yellow hooded sweatshirt said to the person holding the cell phone.

Duncan spoke to EastEndDaily.com about the viral-nature of the story and why it’s struck a chord with the people of Richmond.

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Q: I’ve read your account of what took place on various news websites. Are there specifics about the incident you wish you had included?

A: The one thing I left out because it seemed irrelevant is that there was a man in her passenger seat, who stayed in the car while the blonde woman who came in the truck drove it away. With people now speculating that she may have been rushing away from a domestic dispute of some kind as an explanation for her behavior, I think if I had provided that information up front, those sort of damsel in distress theories might never have come into the public dialogue about the incident.

Q: Could you briefly describe the situation leading up to your roommate starting to film the incident on his cell phone?

A: There were around seven other people out there, four involved with the initial collision, and the others just onlookers. He started filming when the group of us began speculating that the truck had pulled up to get her out of trouble, which was clearly validated. Nobody who had to run out of the way of her car wanted to see her let off the hook, especially while we were already dealing with the fallout from the initial DUI incident.

Q: What compelled you to post the video?

Y: To be honest, I didn’t really feel like I had a choice. My roommate who shot the video posted it on Facebook first, then I uploaded it to YouTube so it could be more easily embedded in the write up I did for rvamag.com. I’ve always had a fairly strong sense of justice, and a stubborn notion of obligation to stand up for what I feel is right. After my roommate recorded it, we did discuss our fears of police harassment or retaliation if we went through with it, but decided to post it anyway. I don’t think either of us are the type to let ourselves be silenced by fear. The police have not contacted me as of yet, but I’ve been made aware of their request for information, and plan on contacting them. For the record, the fears of police retaliation have thus far gone unfounded.

Q: There have been multiple posts on Twitter and Facebook, a Reddit thread with 256 comments, and the video has received nearly 40,000 views on YouTube. Recently, the incident was covered on Right This Minute. Why do you think this has gone viral?

A: If I had to speculate, I’d say because it carries some resonance with people who have felt there is some sort of unjust privilege, or legal amnesty amongst those charged with making and enforcing those same laws. It’s just somewhat uncommon to have compelling evidence without political implications. This isn’t some pretest video of police brutality. It’s not specific to a situation that people consciously put themselves in. There’s some universality to it. It could have happened to anyone.

Q: What has it been like being at the center of this story?

A: It’s kind of surreal, and at the same time, I’m starting to feel a certain level of detachment from it, like it’s taken on a life of its own. I feel like my roommates and I just kinda pushed a boat into the water, and the tides of social media took it out to sea. It’s good though. I’m really happy to see so much public concern about this. Especially in a society that can be easy to label as apathetic or self-involved at times.

EastEndDaily.com will continue to monitor this story as it develops, so keep checking back for further updates.

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Eric Steigleder

Eric Steigleder is a freelance writer, political junkie, coffee-addict and proud Globehopper regular.

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