Jalen Carter, the former Georgia football star who is among the top prospects in next month’s NFL draft, turned himself in to Georgia authorities late Wednesday night, facing charges in connection with a Jan. 15 car crash in which a teammate and a Bulldogs staff member were killed.
Earlier Wednesday, Athens-Clarke County police announced in a statement that Chandler LeCroy, the staff member who was killed, and Carter were “operating their vehicles in a manner consistent with racing” while out celebrating the team’s second straight national championship in downtown Athens at about 2:30 a.m. Police determined that “both vehicles switched between lanes, drove in the center turn lane, drove in opposite lanes of travel, overtook other motorists, and drove at high rates of speed, in an apparent attempt to outdistance each other.”
Just before the crash, the statement continued, the Ford Expedition driven by LeCroy, a 24-year-old recruiting analyst, was traveling at about 104 mph, and a toxicology report indicated that LeCroy’s blood alcohol level was 0.197, more than twice the legal limit in Georgia. “Investigators determined that alcohol impairment, racing, reckless driving, and speed were significant contributing factors to the crash,” the statement added.
Carter was scheduled to speak to reporters Wednesday at the scouting combine. However, about 30 minutes after Carter was scheduled to appear, NFL spokesman Michael Signora said Carter was among the players in medical testing and would not be speaking.
Carter subsequently released a statement on social media Wednesday afternoon saying he would “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 statement continued. Carter returned to the combine Thursday morning, according to multiple reports.
It’s too early to tell whether this incident will affect Carter’s draft stock. Carter is highly regarded by many draft experts and was ranked as the top prospect available by NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah.
During a news conference Wednesday, Washington Commanders General Manager Martin Mayhew said he hadn’t spoken to Carter during the pre-draft process and didn’t have any additional information about him. While the Commanders aren’t a likely fit for Carter, Mayhew said the team will follow the investigation and ask the private firm it employs to do background checks on prospects to look into the situation.
“I don’t know what happened with him,” Mayhew said. “Not saying he did anything that was wrong — because I don’t know — but we’ll know. We’ll find out.”
The statement from police came hours after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Carter had been at the crash scene but left before police or emergency medical workers arrived and later gave shifting accounts of the wreck when he returned 90 minutes later. He denied that he had been racing and initially told police he was nearly a mile away at the time of the crash, according to the Journal-Constitution. He later said he had been following the vehicle when it crashed and was close enough to see its taillights. At another point, he reportedly admitted being alongside the vehicle, which had a speedometer reading of 83 mph on impact — double the speed limit — after it left the roadway.
Georgia offensive lineman Devin Willock, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from LeCroy’s vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. LeCroy had no pulse and was pronounced dead at an Athens hospital. Tory Bowles, another recruiting staff member, and offensive lineman Warren McClendon were also injured in the crash.
Georgia Coach Kirby Smart addressed the charges in a statement released by the school Wednesday morning, saying: “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. We will continue to cooperate fully with the authorities while supporting these families and assessing what we can learn from this horrible tragedy.”
The fatal crash occurred after a long day and evening of celebration, the Journal-Constitution reported. Several players, including Carter, went with members of the recruiting staff to Toppers International Showbar, a strip club in downtown Athens. Video obtained by the Journal-Constitution shows the group leaving around 2:30 a.m., headed for a nearby Waffle House in three cars. One, a 2021 Expedition rented by the school, was driven by LeCroy, who university officials told the Journal-Constitution was not authorized to drive it.
Another car appeared to be a 2019 Dodge Charger belonging to linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson, who was charged last week with street racing and reckless driving in an unrelated incident that occurred five days before the fatal crash. The third vehicle matched the description of Carter’s black Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk.
It stopped at an intersection in front of the Expedition and accelerated rapidly when the light turned green. LeCroy’s Expedition passed a car on the left and on the right to catch up before the next stoplight. Roughly a mile from the Waffle House, the Expedition struck a curb, flying from the road and striking two utility poles and at least two trees before finally hitting an apartment building.
Several football players gathered at the scene, according to documents reviewed by the Journal-Constitution, but initially declined to tell police how they had learned of the crash until one said he had heard about it from Carter.
Sam Fortier in Indianapolis contributed to this report.