Report: Deputy did not activate emergency equipment prior to deadly crash

Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 1:47 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2022 at 7:01 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A former Charleston County deputy had not activated emergency equipment in her patrol vehicle when she collided with another vehicle on Mother’s Day, killing three Colleton County women, troopers say.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol’s Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation report examined the May 8 crash involving former Deputy Emily Pelletier, 24.

Pelletier’s vehicle collided with a Toyota Camry, killing its driver, 28-year-old Shanice Dantzler-Williams; her sister, 22-year-old Miranda Dantzler-Williams; and their mother, 53-year-old Stephanie Dantzler.

The vigil will honor Stephanie Dantzler and her daughters, Shanice Dantzler-Williams and...
The vigil will honor Stephanie Dantzler and her daughters, Shanice Dantzler-Williams and Miranda Dantzler-Williams, all of Colleton County, who died when a Charleston County Sheriff’s deputy collided with them on Savannah Highway at New Road.(Dantzler Family)

The crash happened at approximately 11 p.m. on Savannah Highway at New Road. Investigators say Pelletier’s patrol vehicle was traveling west on New Road while the vehicle driven by Shanice Dantzler-Williams was traveling south on Highway 17.

The report concluded Pelletier had not activated her vehicle’s emergency equipment based on the lack of dashcam footage.

Investigators reported there was no footage recorded by the front dashcam. They sent the unit to the manufacturer, who was unable to recover any video of the crash itself.

The MAIT report includes interviews from two witnesses, including fellow Deputy Clinton Sacks, who responded to help a driver whose car had broken down on Highway 17. Pelletier was responding to the same scene at the time of the crash.

Sacks told investigators he had just approached the driver when he noticed the headlights of a southbound vehicle.

“He looked up to see a car cross through the northbound lanes, then a flicker of blue lights and the car go into the woodline,” the report states.

Sacks said he was not aware of a second vehicle being involved in the crash until another witness told him when he arrived at the deputy’s vehicle, the report states. Sacks told investigators he never heard a siren.

That second witness said he was traveling toward Highway 17 on the dirt portion of New Road when he saw a vehicle “bouncing” onto the dirt road with its blue lights on, the report states. He told investigators he did not know a second vehicle was involved until he had gotten out of his vehicle and was looking around the scene prior to Sacks’ arrival. He also said he never heard a siren, the report states.

While the front dashcam recorded no footage, the rear dashcam began recording after the collision had already happened, the report states.

When the rear camera’s footage begins, the deputy and the witness were already at the scene, standing behind the patrol vehicle, “indicating that the recording begins a period of time after the collision has occurred,” the report states.

“MAIT interviewed two witnesses to the collision,” the report states. “Neither witness was able to see or hear the emergency equipment of [Pelletier’s vehicle] prior to impact,” the report states. “Due to a lack of recording prior to the collision, it can be concluded that [Pelletier’s vehicle] did not have emergency equipment activated prior to the impact.”

Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano held a news conference at the Dantzler’s family Green Pond home on June 7. During that news conference, 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 would be included in any dashcam recording.

Sheriff’s office spokesman Andrew Knapp said the force of the impact could have made the deputy’s blue lights activate, but the agency does not believe they were activated prior to the crash.

Deputy: ‘My vehicle collided with an unknown object’

Emily Pelletier, 24, faces three counts of reckless homicide in the Mother’s Day crash that...
Emily Pelletier, 24, faces three counts of reckless homicide in the Mother’s Day crash that killed 53-year-old Stephanie Dantzler and her daughters, 28-year-old Shanice Dantzler-Williams and 22-year-old Miranda Dantzler-Williams.(Charleston County Detention Center)

In a sworn statement, Pelletier described the events leading up to the deadly crash.

She said she was moved to a different district she was not familiar with for the evening of May 8 and was dispatched to a disabled vehicle located “in a remote area on Highway 17 South.”

“I was driving on New Road which is not illuminated by any streetlights or lights from businesses,” she said in the statement. “I was proceeding to the area where the driver of the disabled vehicle was located. I do not know how fast I was going at the time. It had been about five to ten seconds since my last contact with dispatch when my patrol vehicle collided with an unknown object. I know now that the unknown object was another vehicle.”

Pelletier said her partner, Sacks, then found her and notified dispatchers of the crash.

“I was not aware that I was on Highway 17 because it was not illuminated by streetlights or lights from businesses,” she said. “Deputy Sacks, with the help of a firefighter, got me out of the vehicle and I was transported to MUSC by EMS.”

The report states Pelletier disregarded a stop sign and struck Dantzler-Williams’ vehicle, knocking it into a woodline where it struck a utility box, a power pole guy wire, SCDOT signs and small trees.

The report confirms what Graziano said at the June news conference.

“There’s no doubt about the facts, I think we all agree on the facts,” Graziano said. “She ran a stop sign and collided with, hit the vehicle that was driven by Shanice. She struck the vehicle, there’s no doubt about that.”

The report estimated Pelletier was driving 81 mph seconds before the crash and had slowed to 73 mph at the time of impact. The speed limit on New Road is 45 mph.

Dantzler-Williams’ vehicle was traveling at 53 mph, below the posted Highway 17 speed limit of 60 mph.

Pelletier was charged with three counts of reckless homicide in the crash and surrendered herself to authorities on June 10.

A judge set a surety bond of $25,000 for each of the three charges, for a total of $75,000. As a condition of bond, Pelletier is also prohibited from having any contact with the victim’s family and cannot leave the state. Court records state she posted her bond about two hours after she was booked.

Sheriff’s spokesman Andrew Knapp confirmed her employment with the sheriff’s office was terminated on June 10 “for policy violations.”

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