ST. PETERSBURG, Fla (WFLA)- Dozens gathered in Campbell Park in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday evening to remember three teens who died in a crash early Thursday morning.
Dominique Battle age 16, and Ashaunti Butler and Laniya Miller, both 15, were in a stolen car fleeing from authorities. It’s unclear which of the teens was behind the wheel, but she drove into a cemetery near where Gandy Boulevard and I-275 meet. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri believes the teens were trying to make it to the interstate, and simply didn’t see the pond.
At a news conference the day of the accident, the sheriff said other teens need to learn stealing cars is not a joke. “They need to know that there are consequences for their actions. They need to know that you can’t get arrested four and five times in a year in auto theft and get away with it,” said Gualtieri. “This is a systemic and complicated problem and unless we do something differently, we’ll continue to see more lives lost.”
At Saturday night’s vigil, friends of the three say some comments about the girls, floating around social media, and in the public are upsetting. Patricia Johnson believes the girls should be remembered for their positive contributions to society. “They were actually very caring, loving girls,” said Johnson.
“All of that right there, it’s like, by them bringing up their past, it’s like I didn’t like that because I felt it was disrespectful towards them, because they actually changed a whole lot.”
Kashonda Cummings heard school administrators talking about the accident the day after it happened. “In school, the principal and them was talking about it and I kinda felt like that was wrong.” Said Cummings. “Because they keep saying if they was never in the car or if their parents was watching them, they would be okay. ”
Kristine Hayes was also at the memorial. She is Miller’s grandmother, and points out her granddaughter did not have a lengthy criminal record, as did the other two teens. “She was a good kid. She’s not like they portray her in the newspaper. She had one charge her whole life,” said Hayes, with tears flowing down her cheek. “And she was still a kid. She was fifteen. ”
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