The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office may be facing a lawsuit soon. Yashica Clemmons, the mother of a teenager who drowned in a stolen car last March, recently announced that she plans to file a lawsuit against law enforcement for their role in the accident. Clemmon’s attorney, Aaron O’Neal, made the announcement of her intentions to file a lawsuit at a recent press conference. “We believe these girls were murdered,” he said. “We want to get to the facts and the truth about what really happened that day.”
The incident in question happened in the early morning hours of March 31. Three teenage girls, including Clemmon’s daughter, 16-year-old Dominique Battle, drowned in a stolen car when it plunged into a pond at Florida cemetery. O’Neal claims that there is dash cam video showing the police officers speeding and chasing the girls in the stolen vehicle. However, policy dictates that deputies are not allowed to pursue stolen cars.
O’Neal claims that not only did police pursue the car, but that one deputy may have actually tapped it with the police car, making it veer into the pond. Damage on the car’s rear bumper supports this theory. “The three girls would have been alive today if (police) followed their own protocols around these police chases,” said O’Neal. Audio also reveals the deputies talking after the car went into the pond. One officer says, “They’re done,” and then another officer mentions he believes he hears the girls screaming. “We can see clearly from the video that there was no clear urgency to rescue those girls,” O’Neal argued.
The police don’t seem too worried about any coming lawsuit from Clemmons or her attorney. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said, “If they think they’ve got a viable claim, bring it and stop doing press conferences. There was absolutely zero wrongdoing on the part of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. They’ve presented no facts or evidence.”
When questioned about the high-speed “chase”, Gualtieri insisted that the officers were only trying to get to the scene or keep the car in sight. He said that police cars never struck the Honda at any point. In fact, two officers attempted to wade into the pond to retrieve the girls as the car was sinking, but they had to turn back because of dangerous conditions. The dark tinted windows made it impossible for the officers to see into the car and identify who was inside. While footage from the dash cam does not show any type of rescue attempts, it does show officers heading back and forth around the water.
Clemmons insisted that she will not stop until justice is served. “Dominque was a caring, loving child who was loved by her mother, her family, her friends, and her neighbors,” the mother said. “Justice will prevail. What you did in the dark will come to light. Now we have the whole world looking at you and we’re coming.”
“This was a terrible tragedy for the entire community,” said Tampa personal injury attorney Christopher Ligori. “Whether or not the family does have enough evidence to pursue a wrongful death case is yet to be seen.”