Altavista police chief assists in traffic stop engagement proposal

Police bodycam video captured the memorable moment

Altavista's police chief responded to a call he's never received before, and it had an unexpected ending

ALTAVISTA, Va. – Altavista police bodycam video captured what appeared to be the beginning of an ordinary traffic stop — but there was an amazing and unexpected ending you won’t believe.

On April 8, Police Chief Tommy Merricks responded to a call he’s never received in his 33 years on the job.

“A lot of times people don’t call the police to tell them that they’re having a good day,” said Merricks.

The bodycam video shows the town’s top cop pulling over 25-year-old Ben Mitchell in his red pick-up truck.

“I was nervous. I honestly didn’t know what to say,” said Mitchell.

“I was like, ‘he’s probably just going give you a warning,” said Mitchell’s girlfriend, Sierra Harrison, who was also in the truck.

Merricks asked the couple to step out of the vehicle.

“I was a little irritated at that point because I was like, ‘We’re going to be super late. He’s doing an unnecessary search,” said Harrison.

That’s when Harrison walked behind the truck and found Mitchell on one knee — engagement ring in hand.

“[I had] tears immediately,” said Harrison.

And what she didn’t know is that Merricks was in on it.

“[Mitchell] called me and told me when he would be passing me, and I set up so I would see him,” said Merricks.

Mitchell, a U.S. Marine who served four years including one deployment to Jordan, works for Altavista’s public works department. Harrison works in childcare. They’ve been dating for two years and say it was love at first sight.

“We went on a date, and after the date, I was like, ‘you know what? This girl is really nice. I have to be with her,’” said Mitchell.

“It’s the love of my life. I would’ve said yes even with no ring,” said Harrison.

It’s a tiny-town love story with one huge honor.

“I’m blessed that I had the opportunity to do this,” said Merricks.

Mitchell and Harrison are expecting their first child and say they’re waiting until after the baby’s birth to schedule their wedding -- but they plan on inviting Merricks -- and he plans on being there.

About the Author:

Tim Harfmann joined the 10 News team in September 2020 and works at the station's Lynchburg bureau.