INDIANAPOLIS — Arrest warrants for Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter were issued Wednesday morning, sending shock waves through the NFL combine, where the top NFL draft prospect and potential Chicago Bears target was scheduled to meet with teams and hold a session with reporters.
The Athens-Clarke County Police Department announced it obtained warrants for reckless driving and racing in relation to Carter’s involvement in a Jan. 15 crash that killed Georgia offensive lineman Devin Willock and recruiting staff member Chandler LeCroy, who was driving the car that crashed. Both charges for Carter are misdemeanors.
A police statement said LeCroy and Carter operated separate vehicles in a manner consistent with street racing after leaving downtown Athens, Ga., at about 2:30 a.m. The statement added LeCroy’s vehicle was traveling at about 104 mph and a toxicology report indicated LeCroy’s blood alcohol level was .197. The legal limit in Georgia is .08.
“The evidence demonstrated both vehicles switched between lanes, drove in the center turn lane, drove in opposite lanes of travel, overtook motorists and drove at high rates of speed in an apparent attempt to outdistance each other,” the police statement said. “Investigators determined that alcohol impairment, racing, reckless driving and speeding were significant contributing factors to the crash.”
Earlier Wednesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a harrowing story of the crash that said Carter’s account of events to officials had shifted. The AJC reported Carter first said he was not present at the time of the crash, then later acknowledged he was traveling in a separate vehicle alongside the other car. The story also said Carter left the scene before returning later.
Carter issued a statement on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon saying Athens police informed him of the arrest warrants during a phone call that morning.
“Numerous media reports also have circulated this morning containing inaccurate information concerning the tragic events of January 15, 2023,” he said in the statement. “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.”
Carter is widely expected to be one of the first defensive prospects selected in April, and several analysts have projected the Bears, who own the No. 1 pick, to draft him either with the top pick or after a trade down.
He was scheduled to speak to reporters in Indianapolis a few hours after the AJC published its story, and a crowd stood in front of an empty podium for 30 minutes waiting for official word about his availability. An NFL spokesman eventually told reporters Carter would not be speaking, along with a handful of other prospects, because they were still in medical evaluations.
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A police official told The Associated Press that Carter was making arrangements to turn himself in.
The crash is clearly still fresh on the minds of Georgia players, who had just celebrated their second straight national championship with a parade not long before it. Before news spread of the arrest warrants for Carter on Wednesday morning, edge rusher Nolan Smith cried during his NFL combine interview session while speaking of Willock.
“I get sensitive talking about it because I love (Willock),” Smith said. “He never did anything wrong in his three years. No one should deserve to die like that. Three years in a row, that man showed up, worked day in and day out. And he’s a two-time (national) champ. And it’s written in stone.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart issued a statement Wednesday morning on Carter’s charges.
“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,” Smart said. “We will continue to cooperate fully with the authorities while supporting these families and assessing what we can learn from this horrible tragedy.”
Carter’s involvement in the crash complicates the top of NFL draft boards, including what the Bears will do with their pick. Carter and Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. are the top-ranked defensive prospects, and the Bears sorely need help on the defensive line.
Bears general manager Ryan Poles said Tuesday the team was sure to deal with unexpected circumstances along the way.
“I try not to get too high or too low and try to stay on our toes,” Poles said. “Because like I said, I’ve been in this league long enough (to know) that some curveball’s going to pop up and we’re going to have to adapt and adjust to it.”