Jalen Carter arrest: NFL Draft prospect turns himself in after Georgia teammate killed in crash

ByTina Burnside, Nick Valencia, Holly Yan and Isabel Rosales, CNN, CNNWire
Friday, March 3, 2023
Teammate turns himself in following crash that killed local UGA player
Jalen Carter, a top NFL Draft prospect, turned himself in to police, but says he is confident he will be exonerated. Chantee Lans is in the newsroom with details.

ATHENS, Ga. -- University of Georgia football standout Jalen Carter surrendered to police in Athens, Georgia, Wednesday night on charges related to a crash that killed his teammate and a team staffer hours after they celebrated the Bulldogs' national championship victory.

Carter -- who has been projected as a top pick in the NFL draft next month -- turned himself in at the Athens-Clarke County Jail on charges of reckless driving and racing, jail records show. He was booked at 11:33 p.m. and released a short time later at 11:49 p.m.

More than four months before the fatal January 15 crash, Carter was issued three traffic citations -- including one for speeding at nearly twice the legal limit, according to documents and body camera video obtained by CNN from the Athens-Clarke County Police Department.

Carter's teammate Devin Willock and football team staff member Chandler LeCroy were killed in the January crash, which happened hours after the team participated in a parade through campus to celebrate its second consecutive national title.

LeCroy was driving a Ford SUV near the campus with Willock and two other members of the football program also in the vehicle, police have said. The SUV was traveling "about 104 miles per hour" before it veered off the road and slammed into two power poles and several trees, Athens-Clarke County police said.

Authorities said Carter was driving a separate vehicle and he and LeCroy appeared to be racing.

SEE MORE: Georgia offensive lineman Devin Willock, recruiting staffer die in tragic car 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," Athens-Clarke County police said.

Carter responded to the allegations in a statement posted on his verified Twitter account Wednesday, writing, "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.

"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," he wrote.

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.

Investigators have also said alcohol appeared to be a factor in the deadly crash.

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.

Willock was ejected and died at the scene and LeCroy died at a local hospital. The two other passengers in the vehicle were injured, officials said.

Carter ticketed for speeding months before fatal crash

Months before the deaths, on September 22, Carter is stopped for speeding. An officer is heard on body camera footage telling him that he is "reckless," and issues three traffic tickets

One ticket showed Carter was driving at 89 mph in a 45 mph zone. A second ticket cited him for having "material affixed" to his car which "obstructs vision." A third citation was for an illegal windshield tint.

Bodycam video from the stop showed Carter in the driver's seat of a Black Jeep. The officer held up a radar gun showing a speed of 89 mph, according to the video.

Carter is seen on video, expressionless, as the officer named two other UGA athletes who he said he had recently stopped.

"Y'all need to slow down dude," the officer is heard telling Carter, who didn't respond.

"Look I don't know if y'all need to send out a text or something to other teammates, but slow down," the officer said, adding, "That was reckless."

"When you're around your teammates, tell them to slow down," the officer said.

The officer then tested the tint on Carter's vehicle -- which he said is illegal in the state of Georgia. "The front windshield can't have nothing on it. No material on it whatsoever, OK?"

"Your break is you're not going to jail. That's your break. Because that would make all kinds of news, alright?" the officer is heard telling Carter in the footage.

The player smiled nervously. "You're getting a ticket for speeding," the officer said.

The officer added, "Slow down OK. That's all I ask."

CNN attempted to reach Carter's agent for comment, but they did not return the calls. Records on the deposition of the traffic offenses were not immediately available.

Carter's a potential No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft

Carter has returned to the NFL combine in Indianapolis, Indiana, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Carter is not working out at the combine, which is a four-day, invitation-only event for teams to scout draft-eligible talent. It is common for the most highly coveted NFL prospects, like Carter, to attend the combine for activities such as interviews and measurements but not participate in the physical activities.

Both Schefter and Rapoport, each citing an unnamed source, report that Carter returned to finish his interviews, measurements and other activities.

CNN has reached out to Carter's agents and the NFL for comment.

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.