Three girls – 16-year-old Dominique Battle, 15-year-old Ashaunti Butler, and 15-year-old Laniya Miller – all drowned when the stolen car they were driving plunged into a cemetery’s retention pond in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 31st.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri claims that, according to deputies’ reports, attempts were made to enter the water and save the girls from drowning. However, police dashcam videos captured at the scene contradict police reports and raise questions about the officers’ actions.
Attorney Michele K. Whitfield, who represents the families of Laniya Miller and Dominique Battle, joined guest host Angela Rae on NewsOne Now to discuss the case.
Whitfield questioned the narrative being told by the Sheriff’s office, as well as how the teens acquired the car they drowned in. According to Attorney Whitfield, Sheriff Gualtieri had issued a press release that detailed the three girls’ criminal histories prior to explaining what happened at their time of death.
Whitfield told Rae, “From the outset, there was this kind of narrative that was being written, being put out there about who these girls were.”
The attorney for the Battle and Miller families believes the case was “politicized” by the Sheriff and his explanation sought to “minimize their lack of effort to rescue these girls.”
Police dashcam video revealed the officers did little to save the girls, although Sheriff Gualtieri stated they dropped their gun belts, waded into the water, and attempted to rescue the girls.
Attorney Whitfield wants more answers as to exactly what happened prior to the deaths and has also requested dashcam footage and a series of documents be released. Whitfield explained the primary officer’s vehicle was positioned “directly behind the girls right when they went into the pond.”
“I don’t have his video,” said Whitfield. She added, “I don’t really even have some of his radio transmissions — I’ve asked for that.
“If law enforcement truly did everything that they could do, then you know what we’ll say, ‘OK, they did everything that they could do,’ but what it appears to me is that they did not,” Whitfield said.
Watch NewsOne Now guest host Angela Rae and Attorney Michele K. Whitfield discuss the case in the video clip above.
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