Three teen girls drowned after leading police on a chase in a stolen car. One of the girls accidentally drove the stolen car into a cemetery pond and drowned. 16-year-old Dominique Battle, 15-year-old Ashaunti Butler, and 15-year-old Laniya Miller were pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
During a press conference the following morning, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, praised his deputies “stripping out of their belts and diving into the water to save those girls.
However, it wasn’t until earlier this week that dashcam footage was released and revealed that the officers watched the car sink and did nothing to try and save the young ladies and even listened to them scream until they died.
Police say the teenage girls stole a car in a Walmart parking lot on March 31, and evaded law enforcement who were pursuing them in the allegedly stolen vehicle.
The owner of the car, 35-year-old Damian Marriott, told police he was going to give the girls a ride to a nearby Child’s Park.On the way there, he stopped at a Walmart to buy a television, leaving the car running, and when he came outside, the girls had taken off with the car, Gualtieri said.
Hours later, the car was spotted driving with its lights off but police decided not to pursue when they could not pull it over, Gualtieri said.
‘They’ve been arrested seven times in the last year on just auto theft charges,’ Gualtieri said. ‘These are not good kids. These are kids who are heavily engaged in criminal activity. I didn’t make it up. I didn’t make it up that at 4 o’clock in the morning they were driving a stolen car.’
|15-year-old Laniya Miller (left) and 15-year-old Ashaunti Butler (right)|
However, dashcam footage that was released shows that the officers stood on the shore and all of them said that they heard screaming, but still did nothing. Once the screaming ceased, one of the officers said,
‘It’s about two feet of the trunk left and it’s going to be completely under,’ one of the deputies said in the footage. ‘It’s going all the way down.’
‘They’re done. They’re six, seven deep. I hear them yelling I think,’ a deputy says
|Dominique Battle, 16|
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told ABC that deputies did everything by the book, even attempting to save the girls’ lives after their car plunged into the pond.
He said he wasn’t ‘going to stand by and let these people cast a false narrative’ adding that because the pond was ‘thick with sludge’, it was difficult for officers to get to the teens.
Since the release of the video, the officers’ statements about trying to assist the girls has been questioned, according to ABC.
As the Sheriff’s office maintains their position that the officers tried to enter the pond to save the girls, but the video only shows them standing near the pond.
‘The officers got in the pond and just because it’s not on cam doesn’t mean it didn’t happen,’ Gualtieri said.
‘My daughter was not perfect,’ Natasha Winkler, mother of Laniya Miller, one of the girls who drowned, told WFTS. ‘What 15-year-old is?’