RICHMOND, Va. – Police are searching for the person who shot at a student biking home, with a BB gun that was fired at close range. Sarah Ledford, who studies at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, had just finished an afternoon exam and was riding to her Shockoe Bottom apartment.
Around 3:30 p.m., Ledford left the Perkinson Building in the 1100 block of E. Leigh Street, traveling on her Trek bicycle. She traversed a route that neither her mother – a pro-cyclist – nor her father -- who owns a bike shop – are entirely comfortable with her taking, but for strict cycling purposes is the better option.
The Leigh Street Viaduct, known also as the Martin Luther King, is a much easier route, versus cycling up a bustling, two-lane Broad Street – with no sharrows or a bike lane. It’s even the route Google Maps recommends.
Ledford was stopped at a red light – “doing everything the way a cyclist should” – where the bridge intersects with Mosby Street.
She recalled a Civic pulled up directly behind her – almost too close. A dark red SUV with a sunroof was to her left, both were playing music and “seemed to be grooving with each other.”
“I felt this sharp sting go into my spine, and I turned around and I’m like ‘what the heck just happened?’ Ledford said. “I’m looking at them like I’m really mad, because I knew someone had done something.”
“It felt like a rock had been thrown at my back,” she added, “really hard.”
She said that’s when she saw the man in the Civic shake his head, and the woman started laughing “hysterically.”
The man in the red SUV said, “We’ve got to go,” and both cars ran the red light, headed left into Mosby Court.
Ledford continued on home, peeved and in pain, but unaware she had been shot.
She started to feel a tingling sensation in her spine, her foot felt numb and she discovered a purplish red “notch” in her back and then she called 911.
“I played everything back and realized ‘oh my gosh, it was a BB gun,'” Ledford said.
The paramedics showed up, took her vitals and then transported her to trauma for treatment.
That’s when she said it all really hit her.
“I was terrified; I felt very violated,” Ledford said. “I felt vulnerable…I felt like a victim.”
A feeling she doesn’t want anyone else to experience.
“They told me it could have killed me,” she said, because of the proximity to her spine.
Yet, it is a gun that isn’t registered, and which anyone can get a hold of.
“It could kill someone if it hits the right way; it isn’t a toy,” she said.
Ledford didn’t get the license plate of either car, but does feel certain she could pick the faces out of a lineup.
The driver of the SUV was black, tall and skinny and had a flat top, short on the sides, Ledford said. The man driving the Civic was black, with skinny, short, dreadlocks. The woman in the passenger seat of the Civic was black, had multiple gaps in her upper, front teeth and was slightly heavyset with large breasts, Ledford said.
Richmond Police and then VCU Police both met with Ledford, and are investigating the shooting. They are currently looking for any surveillance that may have captured the vehicles involved.
Ledford said she was told it could be connected to a series of shootings at drivers on Interstate 95. Though, police tell CBS 6 that they "have not been briefed by detectives on any connection to other incidents at this time."
She was also told that just 15 minutes before she was shot, there was a report of someone brandishing a weapon at two women walking on the MLK Bridge – in a red SUV.
Police records indicate this is the first incident so far like this in 2016, and only one incident in 2015.
In the 2015 incident, which occurred in the 2800 block of Monument Avenue, two male suspects threw ‘bang snap’ noisemakers at a bicyclist.
“It was either a prank, or a ‘who does this girl think she is’ situation,” Ledford said.
The wound has begun to heal, though she doesn’t have complete feeling back in her foot.
Though friends have advised her not to ride her bike to school, she can’t imagine taking her car when campus is so close by.
“I don’t want to be afraid of riding my bike to school,” Ledford said. “Hopefully, it doesn’t happen again.”
And she has a message to her attackers.
"Find other ways to let out your anger, not on people who don't deserve it," she added. "Let out your frustration -- find a hobby."
"Shooting people innocently is not okay -- you can really hurt someone."