Three teenagers decided to go for a little joyride, stole a car, and enjoyed a little excitement of adrenaline rush. But such excitement turned out into a tragedy.
Laniya Miller, 15, Ashaunti Butler, 15, and Dominique Battle, 16, had asked a 36-year-old man for a ride to Childs Park on the night but when he stopped at a Walmart store leaving the car running, the girls took the car for a ride for themselves.
A police officer spotted the car later and determined it was stolen in St. Petersburg. Deputies followed the car from a distance because deputies cannot pursue stolen cars under Sheriff’s Office policy.
Later, the car went off the course and continued forward going straight to a pond before submerging 15 feet under water resulting to the death of the three.
The parents of the girls claimed that the police are responsible for the deaths of their children as they did not do enough to save them after crashing the stolen vehicle.
According to Tampa Bay Times, as police officers contemplated putting their lives in danger, they could be heard on video saying:
“It’s going all the way down. It’s almost fully submerged,” one deputy says. “I hear them yelling, I think!”
“They’re done. They’re done. They are sig 7, dude.”
(“Sig 7” refers to signal 7, a radio code for “dead person.”)
“Did you hear yelling? I thought I heard yelling as it was going down,” a deputy said.
The Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri posted to Facebook with quite the priceless response answering to the allegations against them.
Along with posting a video showing officers who had taken off portions of their uniform and attempted to go in the water, the sheriff also said:
“It’s a bunch of junk,” the sheriff said Friday of the allegations. “Those deputies went in that water and tried to save those girls at their own peril.”
The Sheriff’s investigative reports indicate that deputies tried to reach the car. Deputy Jeff Clement wrote in his report: “Myself and other deputies began to enter the swampy water… the fact that the vehicle was still moving, along with the unstable ground and excessive water vegetation, made a rescue too risky for those involved.”