By CHARLES ODUM AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, projected as one of the top players in next month’s NFL draft, has been charged with reckless driving and racing in conjunction with the crash that killed offensive lineman Devin Willock and a recruiting staff member.
The Athens-Clarke County Police Department has issued an arrest warrant, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, that alleges Carter was racing his 2021 Jeep Trackhawk against the 2021 Ford Expedition driven by the recruiting staffer, 24-year-old Chandler LeCroy, which led to the Jan. 15 wreck.
Carter had been due in Indianapolis on Wednesday for the NFL’s scouting combine, and he is expected to address the arrest warrant when he returns to Athens, according to Lt. Shaun Barnett of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department.
“It is my understanding that Mr. Carter is making arrangements to turn himself in,” Barnett said in an e-mail to the AP.
Carter, one of six players who was not present Wednesday for scheduled media interviews at the combine, issued a statement on his Twitter account saying he expects to be “fully exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing.”
“This morning I received a telephone call from the Athens, Georgia, police department informing me that two misdemeanor warrants have been issued against me for reckless driving and racing,” Carter said. “Numerous media reports also have circulated this morning containing inaccurate information concerning the tragic events of January 15, 2023. It is my intention to return to Athens to answer the misdemeanor charges against me and to make certain that the complete and accurate truth is presented. There is no question in my mind that when all of the facts are known that I will be fully exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing.”
The crash occurred just hours after the Bulldogs celebrated their second straight national championship with a parade and ceremony, killing LeCroy and Willock.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart expressed his concern about the charges in a statement issued Wednesday.
“The charges announced today are deeply concerning, especially as we are still struggling to cope with the devastating loss of two beloved members of our community,” Smart said.
“We will continue to cooperate fully with the authorities while supporting these families and assessing what we can learn from this horrible tragedy.”
According to the arrest warrant, the investigation by Athens police found that LeCroy and Carter were operating their vehicles “in a manner consistent with racing” after leaving downtown Athens at about 2:30 a.m.
The warrant says evidence shows the vehicles switched lanes, drove in the center turn lane, drove in opposite lanes, overtook other motorists and drove at high rates of speed “in an apparent attempt to outdistance each other.”
Police determined LeCroy’s Expedition was traveling at about 104 mph (167 kph) shortly before the crash. The warrant says LeCroy’s blood-alcohol concentration was .197 at the time of the crash. The legal limit in Georgia is .08.
Willock, 20, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. LeCroy was transported to a hospital, where she died from her injuries.
Georgia linebacker Nolan Smith became emotional on Wednesday when talking about Willock at the scouting combine.
“This is the first time I’m talking about it,” Smith said. “That’s my guy. That’s one person that never did anything wrong. I get sensitive talking about it just because I love him. He never did anything wrong in his three years.”
Offensive lineman Warren McClendon, who had just announced plans to enter the NFL draft, sustained minor injuries in the crash. Georgia football staffer Victoria Bowles was hospitalized with more serious injuries.
The Jan. 15 wreck was not the only recent incident in which a Georgia player was accused of racing and speeding. Linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson, the second-leading tackler in 2022, was arrested on Feb. 22 on charges of reckless driving and racing.
According to Athens-Clarke County jail records, Dumas-Johnson was released on Feb. 23 after posting a combined bond of $4,000 — $2,500 for allegedly racing on highways/streets and $1,500 for alleged reckless driving.
Georgia athletic department officials said on Jan. 28 that the vehicle driven by LeCroy was expected to be used only for recruiting activities, not personal use.