ATHENS, Ga. — Athens-Clarke County police have been investigating a Jan. 15 crash that killed a UGA football player, staff member and injured two others.
The crash happened just hours after the football program held a parade to celebrate the team’s back-to-back College Football Playoff National Championships.
Recruiting analyst Chandler LeCroy, 24, and UGA offensive lineman Devin Willock, 20, both died in the crash. Offensive tackle Warren McClendon, 21, and recruiting analyst Victoria Bowles, 26, survived.
In the weeks since the crash, police say they have determined that racing, reckless driving, speed and alcohol impairment contributed to the crash. A toxicology report showed LeCroy’s blood alcohol concentration was .197, which is more than two times the legal limit.
Police say that LeCroy was also racing against UGA star defensive tackle Jalen Carter. Police issued warrants for Carter’s arrest on misdemeanor reckless driving and racing charges.
Here is a timeline of the case based on documents and statements obtained by Channel 2 Action News.
Jan. 9: Georgia wins back-to-back College Football Playoff National Championships with a win over TCU in Los Angeles.
Jan. 14: Georgia Bulldogs celebrates their back-to-back championships with a parade through downtown Athens and a celebration inside Sanford Stadium.
Jan. 15 2:45 a.m. Police respond to a single-car crash.
Officers received reports of a single-car crash at 2:45 a.m. on Barnett Shoals Road. According to the investigation, a 2021 Ford Expedition was driving south in the outside lane when it left the roadway.
The car then hit two power poles and several trees.
Police confirmed the driver, Chandler LeCroy, and driver’s side passenger, Devin Willock, died in the crash. On the passenger side, Warren McClendon and Victoria Bowles escaped with injuries.
A newly released police report revealed that the crash was partly caused by excessive speed. The posted speed on the road was 40 mph.
The police report did not list how fast LeCroy was driving and a further investigation would help determine a more precise speed. Police did not say if other factors led to the crash.
A crash that killed a University of Georgia football player and a recruitment staff member was partly caused by excessive speed.
Jan. 19: UGA Athletic Association releases statement.
The university released a new statement about the support for the crash victims.
“Our primary focus remains on providing comfort and support to the families and friends of Devin, Chandler, and the two others who were injured, as well as everyone impacted by this tragedy. Out of respect for the individuals and their families, we will not comment further at this time on the accident or the ongoing investigation.”
Jan. 24: UGA Athletics Director Josh Brooks releases statement.
In the first public statement regarding the details of the crash, UGA Athletics Director Josh Brooks said the university would conduct a thorough review. Brooks emphasized the football players and staff members were not engaged in athletic department activities when the crash occurred.
“Out of respect for the families involved, we have refrained from making any public statements up to this point regarding the circumstances of the tragic accident that claimed two lives and injured two members of our campus community. however, we want the public to know that the athletic department is conducting a thorough review, in coordination with appropriate legal counsel, to fully understand the circumstances surrounding this tragic event. We want to emphasize that these individuals were not engaged in athletic department duties around the time of this incident. Our review is preliminary at this time, and the athletic department is fully cooperating with law enforcement officials to determine all the facts surrounding this tragedy. Coach Smart and I are also actively reviewing relevant football policies, and at the conclusion of that review, we will take steps to implementing improvements in our policies and procedures that may be needed. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families and friends of all those impacted by this tragic event.”
UGA Athletic Association officials reported that the rented SUV driven by LeCroy, carrying her, Willock and two other passengers, was leased by the athletic department for use during recruiting activities only.
“The car driven in the accident was one of several vehicles leased by our athletic department for use during recruiting activities only. Policies and expectations that were well understood by athletics staff dictated that such rental vehicles were to be turned in at the immediate conclusion of recruiting duties. Personal use was strictly prohibited. Therefore, the continued use of the leased car by our staff members after their recruiting duties ended earlier that evening was unauthorized.
“We are continuing to cooperate fully with investigators. Above all, our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and friends of those we lost and those who were injured in this tragic accident.”
Offensive lineman Warren McClendon and three UGA teammates participated in this year’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. It was the first time that McClendon spoke to the media since the crash.
McClendon said that he didn’t remember anything from the crash and that he escaped with a scratch on his forehead.
“You know, it was a rough, for me, couple days. But I’ve been talking to a psychiatrist, and it’s getting better day by day,” he told Channel 2 sports director Zach Klein.
Three days later, McClendon played in the Senior Bowl wearing Willock’s No. 77.
Athens-Clarke County police secured an arrest warrant for Jalen Carter on misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing in connection to the deadly crash.
Police alleged that Carter was driving in a 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and racing against LeCroy in a 2021 Ford Expedition after they left the downtown Athens area around 2:30 a.m. Police determined that LeCroy’s SUV reached speeds up to 104 mph. It is unclear how fast Carter was driving before the crash.
“The evidence demonstrated 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,” police said.
Police also released the toxicology report for LeCroy, which determined that her blood alcohol concentration was .197 at the time of the crash. It is more than two times the legal limit. It is unclear if any blood alcohol testing was performed for Carter.
Carter, who is a projected top pick in the NFL Draft, was in Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine when the charges were announced. Carter says he is returning to Athens to speak with police and he “has no question” he will be exonerated.
“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. 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.”— Jalen Carter
Carter pleaded no contest to the traffic charges he received in connection to a crash that killed a teammate and a recruiting staffer in January.
Carter’s attorney confirmed the agreement to Channel 2 Action News. Carter agreed to 12 months of probation, a $1,000 fine and 80 hours of community service. Additionally, he must complete a defensive driving course approved by the state.
A no contest plea, also known as “nolo contendere” in Georgia, means a defendant will not contest the charges and accepts a fine and probation, according to Athens-Clarke County government. Carter’s attorneys said the deal also means no other charges can be brought against him in this case.
“We are happy that we were able to work with the Solicitor General’s office to reach a resolution that was fair and just and based on the evidence in this case. Mr. Carter continues to grieve the loss of his friends and continues to pray for their families, as well as for continued healing for injured friends,” attorney Kim T. Stephens wrote in a statement.
An ante litem notice dated April 11 was sent by attorneys representing Devin Willock’s father, Dave Willock, to the Georgia Board of Regents. By Georgia law, an ante litem notice is required if someone is considering suing the government.
According to the ante litem notice, Willock will seek $2 million in funeral, burial and medical expenses as well as “physical and mental pain and suffering arising out of his injuries in the collision” before Willock’s death. The attorneys wrote that the UGAAA and LeCroy’s estate may be sued separately from the board.
Greg Trevor, the Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications for the University of Georgia, released a statement on behalf of the university, writing:
“While we continue to grieve for the Willock family, the demand letter from an attorney for Devin’s father is full of inaccuracies. The claims you have identified from the letter are false, and the university disputes them in the strongest terms. Mr. Jackson has not provided the university with any sources or evidentiary bases to support these reckless claims. As we have made clear, personal use of vehicles rented for recruiting activities was strictly prohibited. Ms. LeCroy was not engaged in athletic department duties around the time of the accident, and her personal use of the car after her recruiting duties ended earlier that evening was therefore unauthorized.”
The father of a University of Georgia player killed in a car crash in January filed a lawsuit against the University of Georgia Athletic Association.
The lawsuit also named several of its staff members, LeCroy’s estate, former UGA star Jalen Carter, Sarchione Auto and Toppers International strip club.
Willock’s father Dave Willock and the Willock estate are seeking $30 million from the defendants in compensatory damages and an additional $10 million in punitive damages from Carter, according to the documents.
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