‘We are heartbroken’: Charleston Co. sheriff urges focus on victims of deadly deputy-involved crash
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano held a news conference Wednesday morning on the deputy-involved crash that killed three Colleton County women late Sunday night.
Graziano said a good deal of focus has been placed on the three Charleston County deputies who were injured.
“My intent today is to bring back into focus that three beautiful souls were lost on Sunday night,” she said. “Our hearts are broken and the family affected by this are doing all they can to make sense of this.”
The crash happened at approximately 11 p.m. Sunday on Savannah Highway at New Road. The sheriff’s office said Charleston County Deputy Emily Pelletier was responding to a call when her patrol cruiser collided with the vehicle occupied by three women, all three of whom died at the scene.
Charleston County Coroner Bobbi Jo O’Neal identified the victims of the crash as Stephanie Dantzler, 53; and her daughters, 28-year-old Shanice Dantzler-Williams and 22-year-old Miranda Dantzler-Williams, of Colleton County. All three died at approximately 11 p.m. Sunday from injuries they suffered in the crash, O’Neal said.
She said her agency is doing all it can to be supportive of the family.
“When I met with the family on Monday morning it was abundantly clear to me the bond that these three girls, these three women shared with one another and with Mrs. Simmons, their grandmother, Stephanie’s mother Miranda and Shanice‘s grandmother,” Graziano said. “Mrs. Simmons was very clear when she told me they were a close family. She said the girls were inseparable. They did everything together. The family is heartbroken. We are heartbroken. They are devastated. We are devastated.
The sheriff said the family is “relying heavily on their faith and their love for one another to get them through this.”
“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.
Sheriff on crashes: ‘There’s many details we don’t have’
The South Carolina Highway Patrol is continuing to investigate the pair of crashes.
At approximately 11 p.m., Deputy Emily Pelletier was responding to a call to assist a motorist whose vehicle had broken down on Highway 17 near Ravenel.
“The caller on the phone told dispatch that it was dark, she was scared, and a car nearly hit her,” Graziano said. “While she was broken down in the road, she didn’t have lights on her vehicle.”
Pelletier was responding to help her and she was traveling on New Road at the time when she collided with the vehicle driven by Dantzler, which was traveling south on Highway 17.
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.
Two other Charleston County deputies, Jonathon Rand and Joy DeSomber, were injured in a second crash while responding to the earlier crash. Graziano said a driver ignored multiple barricades and struck their patrol car while they blocked traffic for the crash investigation. That second crash occurred at around 2:30 a.m. Monday, sheriff’s office spokesman Andrew Knapp said.
As of Monday afternoon, DeSomber had been released from the hospital. Graziano said Rand remained in ICU as of Wednesday but was expected to recover.
Graziano provided few details about possible dashcam video at the news conference, saying state troopers have any footage captured.
Sheriff’s spokesman Andrew Knapp said earlier this week the sheriff’s office turned over dashcam equipment from Pelletier’s patrol car 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.”
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.
“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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