UGA star Jalen Carter responds after police say he was racing another car that crashed. The other driver and a teammate were killed
By Isabel Rosales, Holly Yan, Nick Valencia and David Close, CNN
(CNN) -- University of Georgia star defensive lineman Jalen Carter -- projected as a top pick in the NFL draft next month -- faces charges of reckless driving and racing in connection with a crash that killed teammate Devin Willock and team employee Chandler LeCroy, Athens-Clarke County police said.
Authorities believe alcohol played a part in the January 15 crash, which came just hours after the Georgia Bulldogs celebrated its second consecutive national championship in a parade through campus.
Carter responded to the allegations in a statement posted on his verified Twitter account Wednesday:
"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.
"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."
From revelry to tragedy
After the Bulldogs celebrated their victory with 50,000 fans, LeCroy -- along with Willock and two other members of the football program -- was driving a Ford SUV near the Athens campus when the vehicle veered off the road and barreled into two power poles and several trees.
The vehicle was traveling "about 104 miles per hour" before the crash, Athens-Clarke County police said.
Willock was ejected and died on the scene. LeCroy died after she was taken to a hospital.
The two other passengers in the vehicle were injured.
Toxicology results show LeCroy, who was driving a university vehicle not authorized for use at the time of the crash, had a blood alcohol concentration of .197 -- more than twice the legal limit in Georgia, police said.
"The investigation found that Chandler LeCroy, driver of the 2021 Ford Expedition and Jalen Carter, driver of a 2021 Jeep Trackhawk, were operating their vehicles in a manner consistent with racing shortly after leaving the downtown Athens area at about 2:30 AM" the day of the crash, police said in a news release.
"Alcohol impairment, racing, reckless driving, and speed were significant contributing factors to the crash."
Authorities said both Carter and LeCroy appeared to be racing.
"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," Athens-Clarke County police said.
Carter spoke to police the night of the crash, according to Lt. Shaun Barnett of the Athens-Clarke County police.
Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart said the charges announced against Carter 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," Smart said in a written statement.
Carter, who will skip his senior season, has been considered the potential No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft this April. He was a key part of Georgia's vaunted defense that allowed the fewest rushing yards per game (77.1) in 2022 and was named to several all-America teams.
Carter's mother, Toni Brown, declined to comment about the charges against her son, citing the "ongoing investigation."
But she told CNN that Carter would not work out at the NFL combine in front of scouts and player personnel executives -- though that decision was not the result of the racing allegations, Brown said. The four-day event for top prospects, which includes workouts, interviews and physicals, begins Thursday in Indianapolis.
Willock spent time with a young fan before his death
Like Carter, Willock also won two national titles with the Bulldogs.
Willock, a 20-year-old offensive lineman, "was very loved by all his peers and all the teachers and all the coaches," his aunt Cicely Stout said shortly after his death. "Devin is always smiling, no matter what. Devin has a smile on his face and he was doing very well in academics."
Just hours before his death, Willock was at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant when he met a star-struck fan -- 7-year-old Camdyn Gonzales.
The 6-foot-7, 335-pound Willock, who was a junior, gave Camdyn a fist bump and let the boy try on his gigantic 2021 national championship ring.
"He spent quite a few minutes with us," Camdyn's grandfather Sam Kramer told CNN. "He was humble and very appreciative that we knew who he was and wanted to talk to him."
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