A Teen Girl Died Trying To Steal A Cop Car, The Police’s Response To Her Family Is Epic….
Three teenage girls died early Thursday when a stolen car they were in crashed into a pond at a cemetery in St. Petersburg.
Dominique Battle, 16, Ashaunti Butler, 15, and Laniya Miller, 15, died April 1 after a night of joyriding and running from the cops. They stole a 1990 Honda Accord after its owner offered to give the girls a ride to a nearby park. The driver first stopped at Walmart to buy a TV. He left the car running. When he returned the car and girls were gone.
When the owner came out and saw his car was missing, he called the police and reported it stolen.
Several hours later, a PCSO sergeant saw the car driving with no headlights on Sunset Point Road, just west of U.S. 19. The sergeant tried to stop as it turned south on U.S. 19, but the vehicle refused to stop and the sergeant was unable to get the car's tag.
A short while later, another sergeant in an unmarked cruiser saw the car traveling in the area of Ulmerton Road. The car was within the speed limit and appeared to be driving normally, Gualtieri said.
The sergeant got the car's tag number and discovered it had been reported stolen out of St. Petersburg, so the sergeant continued to follow as the car turned east on Gandy Boulevard.
A third deputy, this time in a marked cruiser, was in the area, and Gualtieri said he believes that's why the driver accelerated through the red light. The deputy saw the Accord stopped by the side of the road, then drove onto Frontage Road and into the cemetery.
Gualtieri said the driver barreled into the cemetery at between 30-35 mph, which he said was pretty fast considering that the cemetery has winding roads and no lighting. He also noted that the cemetery is a dead end.
The Accord continued around the road to an area where I-275 becomes visible, and Gualtieri said investigators believe the girls thought they could exit the cemetery that way.
At that point, Gualtieri said the Accord left the road and, without braking, drove straight into the pond in the southeast section of the cemetery.
The Accord's windows were up, and within five minutes, it was fully submerged, Gualtieri said.
The deputies went into the 15-foot-deep pond after the girls and tried to get them out, but because the pond was thick and muddy, they were unable to do so. The deputies sank into the muck at the bottom of the pond and could not get to the car.
"Once the car filled up with water, it went down pretty quickly," Gualtieri said. "There was nothing deputies could do. As thick as that muck is in the pond, it is almost like a carpet. The doors were closed, the windows were up and unfortunately it just became a death chamber. They drowned, they just couldn't get out."
Gualtieri added that because the pond was "thick with sludge," it was difficult for officers to get to the teenagers.
However, following the release of the dash-cam video, which does not show the full incident, the truthfulness of the officers' statements about trying to assist the girls has been called into question. The Sheriff's office contends that the officers tried to enter the pond to save the girls, but the video only shows them standing near the pond.
The Sheriff's Office maintains its position that the officers did all they could. "The officers got in the pond and just because it's not on cam doesn't mean it didn't happen," Gualtieri said.
"As you walk up to the pond you can clearly see the path the vehicle took driving into the pond," a police report from the sheriff's office states. "There was a path of down tall grass and cattails leading into a heavily vegetative pond. The PCSO Dive team was able to locate the vehicle approximately 60 yards into the pond. Divers advised the pond was approximately 15 feet deep where the vehicle was resting facing east. They were able to secure a tow line but were unable to see anything due to poor visibility."
Watch the video report below for more details: