“I thought it was a bad dream”: Student is wheelchair-bound after hit-and-run

Photo by Erin Edgerton.
Photo by Erin Edgerton.

VCU Police Chief John Venuti announced a $5,000 monetary award Thursday for anyone with information leading to the arrest of a suspect in the hit-and-run involving a VCU student on Sept. 3.

The 21-year-old junior is recovering from serious injuries after she was hit by a, either red or orange, 2017 Ford Explorer while crossing the intersection of West Grace and North Belvidere Streets.

The SUV didn’t stop after hitting the student and headed north, stopping at a red light a block from the impact at West Broad and North Belvidere Streets. Police tracked the car across Leigh Street and believe it got onto I-95, but the exact path was unclear.

The junior, who identifies as Lynn, hopes by telling the story of her accident the driver, or someone with information, will come forward.

“I don’t hate them, I’m not angry at them,” Lynn said. “I just want them to know what effect they had, their actions had, that night. I do want to see justice for what happened and I do really hope they decide to make the right choice and come forward.”

Venuti says he believes there was more than one person in the vehicle.

“There is no question whoever was in that vehicle knew they struck a human being,” Venuti said.

Lynn is now confined to a wheelchair for several more weeks while her pelvis, which was broken in four places and realigned by several metal rods that were inserted surgically, begins to heal. She said she hopes to be walking by next semester and was very lucky to not sustain head injuries.

The incident occurred around 10:24 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 3. Lynn crossed the sidewalk at  North Belvidere Street. She was a few steps ahead of her boyfriend who watched helplessly as the SUV struck Lynn from behind. Police said the vehicle had a green light, but failed to yield right-of-way, as Lynn also had a walk signal.

Lynn said she remained conscious the whole incident and heard the SUV accelerate as it ran her over and dragged her 50 feet down the street.

“I remember being under the car,” Lynn said. “I remember afterwards I could see the pool of blood underneath me. I could feel something was broken. I didn’t know if it was my spine or my pelvis but I could feel my bones shifting a little bit and grating against each other. The first thing I did was wiggle my toes to make sure my spine was OK and I wasn’t paralyzed because that was scary for me. I was in shock, I didn’t know it happened at first. I thought it was a bad dream.”

Lynn said police were on the scene within five minutes and the ambulance followed shortly behind.

VCU security cameras caught the same vehicle six minutes before the accident driving on the wrong side of the road. The SUV traveled westbound in the eastbound lane of Broad Street between 4th and 3rd streets.

“That tells us the driver was either impaired or unfamiliar with the area,” Venuti said.

Lynn now requires constant care and says she is no longer able to do mundane tasks by herself.

“I can’t walk, stand or do normal things like use the bathroom alone,” Lynn said.

She hopes to begin walking with a walker within the next few weeks before making the transition to crutches.

“I think I’ll be feeling a lot better when I’m making progress I can see,” Lynn said.

Venuti said VCU has a high density of both pedestrians and vehicles and encourages safety from all participants occupying the VCU footprint — whether that be by vehicle, foot or bicycle.

“Pedestrians and vehicles are constantly competing for the same space,” Venuti said. “We constantly see pedestrians walking when they shouldn’t.  We do a lot of traffic enforcement to try to modify the behavior of the drivers, but it’s a really dense area with a lot of students and a lot of vehicles and we encourage drivers and people operating bicycles to be careful when driving in the VCU campus.”

VCU Police detectives ask anyone with information about this crime to call Det. Lee Olds at (804) 382-2719. VCU Police also accepts information and tips at (804) 828-1196. Members of the VCU community can download the LiveSafe app to submit tips, screen shots, photos and videos directly to VCU Police. Tips can be submitted anonymously to Metro Richmond Crime Stoppers online or by calling (804) 780-1000.


EXECUTIVE EDITOR

Sophia Belletti
Sophia is a senior print/online journalism student pursuing a minors in history and gender, sexuality and women’s studies. Over the summer she interned at ABC7-WJLA in the sports department. She enjoys writing about current events and sports and hopes to one day be a sports reporter on the sidelines of game seven of the NBA Finals or in the press box at the World Series.
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bellettisr@commonwealthtimes.org

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