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Cop Hits Cyclist, Who Gets Billed for Damages

Schwinn bicycle: $400. Embarrassment saved by not wearing spandex cycling suit: priceless. Calculated cost to clean bits of the injured Kristin Stokes off the shattered windshield of a moving car: $10.

It's been five months since Stokes recovered from a traumatic brain injury, but she's still adding up the cost of her unlucky Friday the 13th encounter in July with the fender and windshield of a Richmond Police Department cruiser.

In October, the city sent her a bill for repairs to the police car, adding insult to her potentially life-threatening injury. In addition to bills from three days in intensive care, Stokes faces $2,757.23 in repairs to the patrol cruiser, including $10 for hazardous waste disposal ("Me," Stokes says).

"Just one cop car is all I'm responsible for -- that and my brain damage," says a frustrated Stokes, struggling to comprehend why she'd be charged for repairs to the 5,000-pound car that clearly outmatched her.

The accident happened at the intersection of Jahnke Road and Forest Hill Avenue, when Stokes and her boyfriend, Jay Van Story, were riding their bicycles eastbound across Jahnke on a green light.

After pausing at the slim median, Stokes was unaware that she'd be crossing the remaining three lanes of traffic on a yellow light. It turned red as she entered the final lane, she says, the same time as RPD car 2202, driven by Officer William McKay, entered the well-timed light at about 40 miles an hour, according to a police report.

Stokes hit the car's left fender. Propelled partly onto the hood of the car, her head hit the left corner of the windshield, where the impact created a salad bowl-sized crater. Her body rolled across the side of the car, damaging its side mirror, side-mounted search light, paint job — and two vertebrae in her back.

Amazingly, Stokes recovered quickly after the brain swelling subsided, and so far she has no lasting ill effects from the wreck. None but the bill, which Stokes first thought was a mistake, from the city's claims administrator.

"I thought when they found out I wasn't driving a car, they'd change their thinking," she says, recounting a call to the city trying to clear up the mess. "That's when [the claims administrator] said they'd be looking to collect from [me] personally."

In a second letter, sent Nov. 20, the city demands payment in 30 days, threatening to suspend her license. "I wasn't even driving a car," Stokes asks, "why would my license come into question?"

Richmond Police spokeswoman Cynthia Price says that the collections process is not handled by police and that she's uncertain of collection procedures for damages to city cars. Even though Stokes wasn't cited in the accident, Price says she can be held liable for damages if the department determines that she failed to observe proper traffic patterns while attempting to cross Forest Hill Avenue.

Stokes, a marketing director for a local nonprofit, says she's simply "trying to rebuild from this [accident]. This bill, to me, is really preposterous. It's really in general just hurtful." S

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