Sheriff: Deputy ran stop sign in deadly crash that killed mother, daughters
Charges expected to be filed against deputy, sheriff said
GREEN POND, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston County’s sheriff said an internal investigation into a May 8 deputy-involved crash that killed three Colleton County women is complete.
Sheriff Kristin Graziano said there was “no doubt” that Deputy Emily Pelletier contributed to the crash that killed Stephanie Dantzler, 53; and her daughters, Shanice Dantzler-Williams, 28; and Miranda Dantzler-Williams, 22.
“There’s no doubt about the facts, I think we all agree on the facts,” Graziano said. “She ran a stop sign and collided with, hit the vehicle that was driven by Shanice. She struck the vehicle, there’s no doubt about that.”
Graziano held a news conference Tuesday afternoon outside the family’s Green Pond home in Colleton County. She said she expects charges to be filed against Pelletier, whom she said was driving without blue lights or her siren on at the time of the crash.
“I know charges are forthcoming, I just don’t know what they are,” she said.
The crash happened at approximately 11 p.m. on May 8 when a Charleston County Sheriff’s deputy responding to assist a driver whose vehicle had become disabled collided with the vehicle driven by Dantzler-Williams on Savannah Highway at New Road.
The deputy involved, Emily Pelletier, was taken to an area hospital and later released. She was placed on administrative leave with pay as the sheriff’s office reviews the incident, which is standard for serious deputy-involved collisions.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Pelletier remained on administrative leave.
Graziano said she learned the South Carolina Highway Patrol recently completed its investigation into the crash and is compiling its final reports. But she said it troubled her when she saw the accident report which did not implicitly state that the Dantzler family was not to blame for the crash.
“We knew that hours after the accident, and it bothered me and it troubled me a little bit that that information was not relayed on the piece of paper,” she said.
She said the family did not get that information until two weeks after the crash.
“I also believe that speed was a contributing factor,” she said. “I don’t know the exact speed yet, we don’t have that information, but I know that it, based on what we saw, and I think we all agree on speed was a factor in this particular incident. These facts are undisputed, there’s absolutely no question about that. That has not changed.”
She said the sheriff’s office’s internal investigation is also complete but she is waiting to receive the Highway Patrol’s findings before making “decisions and determinations on personnel regarding that collision.”
She said she has met with “every uniform” that drives a vehicle in Charleston County since the crash.
“Our hearts are broken as well for this family because they don’t deserve to be standing here,” Graziano said. “And you know, we are saddened by this, we absolutely are. I can’t change the facts. I can’t change the outcome, unfortunately. I wish I could say something, I absolutely wish I could, but when we’re responding to calls, we have a duty to uphold the law and to get where we need to go safely as possible when you call 911.”
Three days after the crash, Graziano said during a news conference she had met with members of the family.
“On Monday, we prayed together. We cried together. And we tried to find peace. And I’m not sure we did,” Graziano said. “When we let the family know that we needed to make a statement about this and release details about them, about their family, I asked them, ‘What message would you want me to convey?’ Their response was simple: ‘They were three kind, loving and precious souls.’”
She said she will continue to honor the family’s wishes and do whatever they can to ease “this incredible burden” they are suffering.
But she offered few specifics, stating that the dashcam equipment from Pelletier’s vehicle had been turned over to the South Carolina Highway Patrol, which is investigating the crash.
“As the video becomes available, we will release the video; we just don’t have anything to release at this time,” Graziano said. “There’s many details we don’t have.”
Graziano did not say at that first news conference that her deputy had run a stop sign or that she was driving without lights or sirens.
She said dashcams are designed to activate when blue lights or activated or after a collision, and the system buffers 30 seconds prior to that, which is included in the recording. But she said they did not yet know for sure whether the deputy’s lights were on at the time of the crash.
“We don’t have that information, I do not believe so,” she said on May 10. “We just don’t have that information.”
She also said they do not have any data to indicate there was any video prior to the collision.
“The dashcam video that was in Deputy Pelletier’s car didn’t reveal anything. It was a blank screen,” she said. “We don’t know if that is because of damage during the collision or if there’s some sort of malfunction, so right now, South Carolina Highway Patrol has the video and they’re getting with the manufacturer to try to retrieve what they can.”
She said her agency’s protocols require, regardless of whether lights and sirens are activated, that her officers still must use due care.
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