Northern Virginia

‘Like a gunshot': Woman narrowly misses being struck by object while driving in DC

"I set foot out of the car and just broke down, seeing all the damage it did"

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Update: D.C. police are investigating after News4's report on Monday. They will check cameras and look into whether someone intentionally threw a rock into traffic.

A Northern Virginia woman says she is thankful to be alive after a rock or object powerfully struck her SUV as she drove along D.C.'s Kenilworth Avenue last Tuesday night.

Lauren Gardiner said she feels lucky to be, but she also is frustrated after she said the Metropolitan Police Department told her they can't investigate what happened as a crime. 

Gardiner and a friend were returning to Virginia from Maryland at about 11:30 p.m. when they heard a loud sound and felt a strong impact.

"The sound that it made hitting my car was almost like a gunshot, and it put me in shock," Gardiner said. "My body froze in the moment. I really didn’t know what to do but just wanted to be safe, so I hung on to the steering wheel."

The 19-year-old took the first exit she could find.

"I set foot out of the car and just broke down, seeing all the damage it did," she said.

In addition to a smashed window frame and windshield, the top part of the roof controls popped out of the car. 

Gardiner said she believes the object was thrown from an overpass, likely the one at Eastern Avenue.

Still shaken, Gardiner drove home and contacted D.C. police the following morning. An officer called back on Thursday, asked for more details and said there would be no criminal investigation without an eyewitness, Gardiner said. 

"She said I needed to have had someone see someone throw the rock or I saw someone throw the rock," Gardiner said the officer told her. "That made me very angry at the moment, because it was 11:30 at night, pitch black, and I was driving. I had to focus on the road, so I didn’t really look up at overpasses or walls next to me."

When News4 looked at the Eastern Avenue overpass area, they found rock-like chunks of concrete easily accessible on the side guardrail, high above the road. There is a camera in the area, but Gardiner said police told her they would not check the footage. 

She said she's concerned that something similar could happen again, potentially with tragic consequences.

At a body shop, Gardiner said she was told that if the object had hit just two inches lower, either on the roof or on the driver’s side, she and her friend could have been seriously injured or even killed.

News4 reached out to D.C. police, who said they have not been able to locate a record of Gardiner’s complaint but will continue to investigate.

To warn others, Gardiner posted her story on the social networking service Nextdoor. She said it will be some time before she feels ready to drive again. The damage to her SUV was estimated at $5,000.

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