Lawsuit: Deputy ‘raced’ with senior deputy before crash that killed 3 women
CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC/Gray News) - A new lawsuit alleges that the deputy whose car crashed into three family members on Highway 17 last year after speeding through a stop sign was not the only law enforcement officer disregarding the rules of the road that night.
The Dantzler-Williams family is suing Charleston County Deputy Clinton Sacks, alongside former Deputy Emily Pelletier, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office and Charleston County, for the negligence, carelessness and recklessness they believed caused the crash that killed Stephanie Dantzler and her two daughters Shanice and Miranda Dantzler-Williams on May 8, 2022.
The complaint comes about a year after the deadly wreck.
The family was headed back from a celebration for the eldest daughter’s graduation on Mother’s Day.
At the time, Pelletier was responding to a stalled vehicle on the highway, which is a “Code 1 non-emergency” call, according to the sheriff’s office policy.
Under this policy, lights and sirens are not required, but deputies are expected to follow all the rules of the road. Previous reports show Pelletier did not have any emergency lights or sirens running and had been speeding to the call.
Using timestamped geographical data collected by Charleston County deputies on the road, lawyers allege that Deputy Sacks, who had been with the department for six years, was also speeding to the same non-emergency call and the two were “racing.”
The court documents allege that three minutes into the response that Pelletier had reached speeds of 91 mph “trying to catch up to” Sacks, who was traveling at 80 mph at 10:45 p.m.
He arrived at the scene before Pelletier’s car collided with the Danztler-Williams’ on Savannah Highway and gave witness statements to the South Carolina Highway Patrol that investigated the collision.
Sacks voluntarily resigned from the department last Friday.
The sheriff’s office confirmed Monday that Sacks no longer works for the department and hadn’t been disciplined for any actions related to the crash.
The data also shows anytime a deputy makes a “route deviation” from the directions provided by dispatch.
During Pelletier’s first six months on the job leading up to the crash, it is noted that she took a different route 157 times.
The evening of the crash, Pelletier’s car is documented to have followed Sacks’ until she reached the intersection of Willtown Road and Highway 174.
Data shows she turned around and followed Willtown Road instead of the highway to the stalled car. She then turned left onto New Road, where she engaged in “conscience-shocking” speeding, the lawsuit states.
Documents show that she sped up from 25 mph to 82 mph down the three-mile stretch of road before disregarding the stop sign at the intersection and hitting the car Shanice Dantzler-Williams was driving.
The speed limit of New Road is 45 mph.
The lawsuit also describes Pelletier’s documented training history where she “struggled” behind the wheel as well as with geography, as previously reported.
In a sworn statement to the Highway Patrol, Pelletier stated she was in an unfamiliar district at the time of the crash.
Court documents also accuse the sheriff’s office and Charleston County of creating “a culture and conditions” where unlawful driving is accepted, “making it foreseeable to [the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office] and Charleston County that more people on the road will suffer injuries and death from the ongoing and future dangerous misuse of County Vehicles.”
Sheriff’s spokesman Andrew Knapp said “speed data is reviewed as necessary and appropriate.”
The complaint alleges that though the deputy driving data captures and records every six to 30 seconds on every county vehicle, there is a “complete absence of any review” of the data unless a crash occurs.
The family has requested a jury trial for damages.
One month after the wreck, the sheriff’s office fired Pelletier from the department and charged her with three counts of reckless homicide.
Her criminal case is still pending.
Charleston County spokesperson Kelsey Barlow stated that the county “does not comment on ongoing litigation.”
The sheriff’s office also declined to comment citing the pending lawsuit.
A press conference with the family is scheduled for Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the Charleston County Courthouse.
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