Pinellas Sheriff defends deputies’ efforts to rescue teens drowned in stolen carComments Off on Pinellas Sheriff defends deputies’ efforts to rescue teens drowned in stolen car
On Friday, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri passionately defended his deputies and their investigation into the three teens who drowned in a stolen car on March 31.
- Websites and social media question is deputies did enough to help
- Deputies reported they took off gun belts and clothes, went into the water to help
- Dash cam video provides little evidence that deputies tried to get into the water
Dash cam video released by the Sheriff’s Office has the internet buzzing. Some websites and many on social media are questioning if the deputies did enough to save the three teens that night.
“He’s off road in the water!" a deputy can be heard saying in the footage. "They’re in the water stranded. Get me a unit over on 275 just south of Gandy.”
Later in the video officers are heard trying to figure out how to get to the teens.
“Let’s get rescue out here in a boat," one deputy said. "We might have to go in, in a boat.”
Sheriff Gualtieri said his deputies’ reports and a clip of dash cam video of the officers walking by without their guns and badges proves they made an effort to enter the water and affect a rescue.
“In reports that were written by the deputies who took their gun belts off, took their clothes off and went in the water – those deputies aren’t lying."
But there are no other obvious signs that deputies tried to get into the water besides what they wrote in their reports. Earlier this week, the Sheriff’s Office released almost a dozen DVD’s of pictures and dash cam video, but none of it clearly shows the car going down into the murky water or the deputies attempting to get it in.
The parents of the girls have questioned the series of events, wondering if more could have been done. Gualtieri says they did all that they could.
He also emphasized these 15 and 16 year olds were running from the police at 4 o’clock in the morning.
“This isn’t a problem with the Sheriff’s Office," said Gualtieri. "This isn’t a problem with the police. This is a problem with those kids engaged in criminal conduct running from the police. The police tried to go into the water and save their life and they couldn’t do it."
Gualtieri went on to say that this wasn’t a case where if it isn’t on video then it didn’t happen. He said one of the deputies who responded is actually on their dive team, and made the decision it was too risky to go in the murky, muddy water.
Michele Whitfield, the attorney for the families of the girls, released this statement Friday:
“At this point we’re still combing through the information. The sheriff is giving an appearance of transparency but we’re still waiting on other documents that haven’t been given to me. Some of that includes the primary officers dash cam video.”
This investigation is still ongoing.