Florida Sheriff Rejects Claims That Officers Didn’t Help Drowning Girls

By Sameer Rao Apr 22, 2016

Police in Florida’s Pinellas County faced tremendous criticism and allegations of racist inaction this week after releasing video that seemingly showed officers standing by as three Black teenage girls drowned after driving a car into a pond. Today (April 22), the sheriff’s department released more dashcam footage that it says is proof of officers’ rescue attempt.

According to the Miami Herald, the three girls allegedly stole a car from a Walmart parking lot the night of March 30. Deputies from the sheriff’s office chased the girls, despite what the Herald described as "county sheriff’s rules [that] forbid deputies from chasing stolen vehicles." Ashaunti Butler, 15, Dominique Battle, 16, and Laniya Miller, 15, accidentally drove into a 15-foot-deep pond and ultimately drowned.

The sheriff’s office released several hours of dashboard camera footage to news outlets on Monday (April 18). It immediately provoked criticism. The portion in question, which you can see here, seemed to show deputies standing on the edge of the pond while commenting on the situation and not helping. One deputy audibly said, "They’re done. They’re done. They are 6-7, dude," in response to another saying he can hear yelling. 

"In my opinion, this has been a smear campaign," an attorney representing the girls’ families told Tampa Bay-based ABC News affiliate WFTS. 

The county sheriff’s office, hoping to dispell any rumors, released another video (which you can see above) with an accompanying statement via Facebook today. That video, according to its YouTube description, shows two deputies "immediately after they attempted to rescue the occupants."

"We are posting this clip with the hope that the false narrative being spread about this incident stops," reads their statement, which appears in full below: