NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Multiple groups called for answers and an independent investigation into a Sunday night crash involving a Charleston County deputy that left three Colleton County women dead.
Activists from Stand As One, the Voice of Colleton, the S.C. Black Activist Coalition and the Phoenix Project held a news conference Thursday morning about the crash and say they want charges filed against the deputy involved.
The crash happened at approximately 11 p.m. Sunday on Savannah Highway at New Road. Stephanie Dantzler and her daughters, Shanice Dantzler-Williams and Miranda Dantzler-Williams, all of Colleton County, died at the scene of the crash.
The sheriff’s office said Charleston County Deputy Emily Pelletier was responding to a call when her patrol cruiser collided with Dantzler’s vehicle.
The South Carolina Highway Patrol is investigating the crash.
“We don’t trust the investigators,” Pastor Thomas Dixon said at Thursday’s news conference. “I’m just gonna put that out there. I don’t care whether it’s [the State Law Enforcement Division] or who. Anytime the police ‘police the police,’ we don’t trust it.”
Dixon vowed to continue posing questions about the crash until they get answers.
Justin Hunt, the president of Stand As One SC, said he wants the deputy charged in the crash.
“I want that officer charged today,” Hunt said.
Hunt said the sheriff’s office “does not have the trust” of the Black community and referred to the investigation of the death of Jamal Sutherland, who died while in custody at the Charleston County jail in January 2021, and the lack of charges filed against the two detention deputies who were forcibly extracting him from his cell to attend a bond hearing as a reason.
“There is zero belief that this department can perform the extent of this investigation to the expectations that we want and we demand,” Hunt said.
The deputy involved in Sunday’s crash 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.
The groups also complained about the lack of information and what they called a lack of transparency from the sheriff’s office. They also asked why a toxicology examination was not performed on the deputy to determine if she were impaired while responding to the disabled motorist at the time of the crash, suggesting that if a civilian had been involved in the crash, that would have been done.
They also demanded answers about the speed at which Pelletier was traveling at the time of the impact.
Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano held a news conference Wednesday morning on the deadly crash, saying she hoped to place the focus on the family and its loss. But she said she could provide few details about possible dashcam video at the news conference, saying state troopers have any footage captured.
“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.”
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. “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 but that her agency’s protocols require, regardless of whether lights and sirens are activated, that her officers still must use due care.
The groups announced they plan to hold a candlelight vigil and balloon release to honor the victims Friday night. Plans released ahead of the news conference state the vigil will be held Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Colleton High School’s stadium in Walterboro.
The victims’ family will hold a visitation Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Koger’s Mortuary at 508 South Jefferies Blvd. in Walterboro. The funeral will take place Saturday at 11 a.m. at Walterboro Christian Center, located at 320 Robertson Blvd. in Walterboro.
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