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Florida Activists Call for Investigation of Deputies Over Death of 3 Teen Suspects in Pond Crash

April 29, 2016  | 

A coalition of activists called Thursday for an outside investigation of the events leading up to the deaths last month of three teenage girls who drowned while fleeing from Pinellas, FL, sheriff's deputies.

The Bay Area Dream Defenders believe the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office was negligent in its actions and "misreported" how Dominique Battle, 16, and 15-year-olds Ashaunti Butler and LaNiya Miller died March 31, when the stolen car they were riding in plunged into a pond, The Tampa Bay Times reports.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has said his deputies tried to pull the girls over but were not pursuing them when their car hit the water in the pre-dawn darkness. The sheriff also has defended his deputies from criticism that they didn't do enough to rescue the trapped girls from the sinking car.

The girls got a ride from a man to Childs Park in St. Petersburg on March 30. He stopped at a Walmart on the way and the girls drove off.

About 3:30 a.m. the next morning, a sheriff's sergeant spotted the Honda with its headlights off in Clearwater. The sergeant turned on his emergency lights. The Honda then ran a red light.

Five miles away, another sergeant spotted the car, looked up the tag number and confirmed the car was stolen. He followed at a distance. Under the sheriff's policy, deputies cannot pursue stolen cars. The Honda ran another red light and headed toward Royal Palm North Cemetery off Gandy Boulevard, a dead end. It navigated the narrow roads of the cemetery. At a sharp bend in the road, the car stayed on a straight course and drove into a pond.

Deputies waded in to save whoever was inside, Gualtieri said, but the mud was too thick. Within five minutes, the Honda was submerged in about 15 feet of water.

The Sheriff's Office has released reports and video from dashboard cameras. Critics have focused on a segment of footage that includes audio of deputies talking about the submerged car as they stood a few feet from the pond.

"They're done. They're done," one deputy said. "They are Sig 7, dude."

"Sig 7" refers to signal 7, an emergency radio code for "dead person."

That footage does not show rescue attempts or capture any conversations about rescue efforts. But it does show some deputies, without uniforms or belts on, heading to and from the water.

Comments (7)

Displaying 1 - 7 of 7

kevcopAz @ 4/30/2016 7:35 AM

Video is good but never shows the entire incident from all angles and Im tired of folks expecting differently. Wise up folks these videos are not a 100 % reenactment of an incident! Im sure that the department will look into procedures, most do when they are connected in any way with an injury or death. Bottom line is that those "teens" chose to commit a crime, chose to flee from police and by where negligence or bad luck (or karma) ended up dead. Too bad, don't be a criminal and or stupid.

GF @ 4/30/2016 10:44 AM

Let's call for an investigation into all of these felons parents under child welfare laws, and hold them accountable for failure to raise/supervise/care for their children.

Nightstalker @ 4/30/2016 8:19 PM

Well said SES and i agree with you also keycopAz.

plato's playdough @ 4/30/2016 8:41 PM

Remember THIS one?

GoFundMe pulls account from group attempting to raise money for 6 Baltimore Police Officer's defense fund?

The purpose of the campaign was to assist the six sacrificial victims with their living and legal expenses. The cops were brought up on preposterously inflated charges for political reasons by prosecutor Marilyn “No Justice No Peace” Mosby, who should have recused herself for obvious conflicts of interest.

Chief800 @ 5/2/2016 6:43 AM

Really, Now we are using the C word?

Chief800 @ 5/2/2016 6:44 AM

Wow, the language is really ramping up here.

tom @ 5/2/2016 6:59 AM

Really ? If one or more of these officers had died in the dark, muddy, and deep water, trying to save these kids, would it have made this less of a tragedy ? These things happen fast and no amount of training can prepare any officer for all situations. Don't know any of the people involved, but I would bet my next pay check that any of these officers would have done anything they could, to save these kids. Sometimes it just isn't in the cards.

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