Top draft prospect Carter charged in fatal crash
10: 25 AM ET
ESPN News Services
Former Georgia star Jalen Carter, one of the top prospects in next month’s NFL draft, has been charged with reckless driving and racing in connection with a crash that killed a teammate and a recruiting staff member.
The Athens-Clarke County (Georgia) Police Department issued an arrest warrant, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, which alleges Carter was racing his 2021 Jeep Trackhawk against the 2021 Ford Expedition driven by the recruiting staffer, 24-year-old Chandler LeCroy, which led to the Jan. 15 wreck.
The announcement came hours after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Carter was present at the scene of the crash and later provided shifting accounts of the wreck to police.
Devin Willock, who was an offensive lineman for the Bulldogs, and LeCroy were killed in what police initially reported as a single-vehicle accident.
Carter was booked for reckless driving and racing on highways/streets at 11: 33 p.m. ET on Wednesday night and released at 11: 49 p.m. after posting bond, according to online records.
Reckless driving and racing are both misdemeanors in Georgia.
Carter had been slated to speak to reporters on Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis as part of a previously scheduled media availability, but a league spokesperson later told reporters that Carter would not be speaking because he and five other players were still conducting physicals.
In a statement posted to social media on Wednesday afternoon, Carter said he intended to return to Athens to “answer the misdemeanor charges against me and to make certain that the complete and accurate truth is presented.”
Carter also said in his statement that he expects to be “fully exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing.”
— Jalen Carter (@breadmanjalen) March 1, 2023
Details of the investigation, released Wednesday, cited evidence that Carter and LeCroy were “operating their vehicles in a manner consistent with racing” shortly before the crash.
“The evidence demonstrated that both vehicles switched between lanes, drove in the center turn lane, drove in opposite lanes of travel, overtook other motorists, and drove at high rates of speed, in an apparent attempt to outdistance each other,” the police statement said.
Police investigators have determined that “alcohol impairment, racing, reckless driving, and speed were significant contributing factors to the crash.” A toxicology report indicated that LeCroy’s blood alcohol concentration was .197 — more than twice the legal limit in Georgia — at the time of the crash, according to police.
The SUV driven by LeCroy was traveling about 104 mph shortly before the crash.
“The charges announced today are deeply concerning, especially as we are still struggling to cope with the devastating loss of two beloved members of our community,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said in a statement. “We will continue to cooperate fully with the authorities while supporting these families and assessing what we can learn from this horrible tragedy.”
According to documents and recordings of 911 calls reviewed by the Journal-Constitution, at least two vehicles driven by Georgia football players had been at the scene, including the Jeep driven by Carter, who left the scene before police or emergency personnel arrived.
Carter returned to the scene less than two hours later, according to the paper, which reported that he was asked by police whether he had been racing the vehicle that crashed.
Documents reviewed by the Journal-Constitution show that Carter first told police that he heard the crash from a nearby apartment complex, but then later told an officer he had been driving both behind and beside the SUV driven by LeCroy.
The Journal-Constitution also obtained surveillance video footage from multiple downtown locations in Athens taken the night of the crash. The footage, which also has been reviewed by police, shows three vehicles leaving the area at the same time: Carter’s Jeep, LeCroy’s Ford and a 2019 Dodge Charger driven by Bulldogs linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson.
Carter denied racing to the officer, who observed no signs that the 310-pound defensive lineman had been drinking, according to the Journal-Constitution.
The crash occurred hours after the Bulldogs celebrated winning back-to-back national championships with a parade and ceremony at Sanford Stadium. Willock was pronounced dead at the scene. He was 20. LeCroy died shortly after being taken to a hospital.
Police investigators said the Ford driven by LeCroy “failed to negotiate a left curve, resulting in the vehicle striking the curb with its front passenger tire and leaving the roadway on the west shoulder.”
The SUV struck a Georgia Power pole and another utility pole, slicing the poles in half, before striking a tree on the rear passenger quarter panel. That sent the vehicle spinning in a clockwise direction before it slammed into another tree on the driver’s side — where LeCroy and Willock were sitting.
Offensive lineman Warren McClendon, who had just announced plans to enter the NFL draft, sustained minor injuries. Georgia football staffer Victoria Bowles was hospitalized with more serious injuries.
Georgia athletic department officials have stated that the SUV driven by LeCroy was to be used only for recruiting activities, not personal use.
Carter is the No. 1 prospect in the draft, according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. He is not participating in the workout portion of the combine but will conduct interviews with teams and undergo a physical.
Dumas-Johnson, the Bulldogs’ second-leading tackler last season, also was arrested on Feb. 22 on charges of reckless driving and racing related to a separate incident.
According to Athens-Clarke County jail records, Dumas-Johnson was released on Feb. 23 after posting a combined bond of $4,000 — $2,500 for allegedly racing on highways/streets and $1,500 for alleged reckless driving.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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