Family reacts to video of teens being chased by deputies

- Newly-released dashcam video shows multiple perspectives of deputies chasing three teens in a stolen car.

Those teens - 15-year olds Laniya Miller, Ashaunti Butler, and 16-year old Dominique Battle - were inside as a sea of sirens keet a safe distance from the stolen car they eventually drove into a retention pond in a cemetery.

That's when the joyride turned tragic. The Honda Accord plunged into a cemetery retention pond in St. Petersburg in the early morning hours of March 31. They never surfaced. A tow line eventually pulled the car out. The teens were found dead inside.

Deputies, K9s, and even a chopper were up and out at the time the car went into the water, surrounding the pond to search for survivors.

But Laniya Miller's mother says deputies didn't do enough. Attorneys representing her family want to know why first responders waited for a dive team to save the teens from the sinking car.

"You have no idea what's underneath that water. How deep it is, what's in it, what could entangle you," Depth Perception Dive Center owner Michelle Dugliss said Tuesday.

Dugliss, who was not involved in the case, says the swamp-like water and low visibility would be dangerous even for trained rescue divers.

"If you're unprepared, without scuba equipment and other equipment that the rescuers usually carry with them, then it could be potentially fatal for yourself," she said.

Deputies' reports reflect that. Many stated they tried going in, but sank in thick mud and got tangled in the pond's vegetation. Even the specially-trained dive team, which arrived a short time later, struggled in the muck. Photos of the vehicle, finally towed out of the water, show thick brush covering the car.

Tuesday, a memorial stood by the embankment of the pond. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says it's a tragic case, but by no fault of his deputies.

"They did everything they could to avoid a bad situation, but those girls made the decisions that they made," he said.

FOX 13 News reached out to Laniya Miller's family's attorneys. They declined to comment at this time. They say they're still going through all the documents released by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Up Next:


Up Next

  • Family reacts to video of teens being chased by deputies
  • Helping America's heroes, one step at a time
  • Rape suspect arrested in two St. Petersburg cold cases
  • Polk detectives look for lotto ticket scammers
  • Tampa police search for skimmer suspect
  • Clearwater police seek help finding missing teen
  • Smart meters could slow power restoration in Lakeland
  • Police: Woman fatally shot in St. Petersburg
  • Rescheduled Snooty memorial to be held Sunday
  • Hernando bank robbery suspect dies after deputies fire shots