Report: Hit-and-run involving FSU player changed to 2 tickets by cops
A Florida State football player who was reportedly involved in a crash with another vehicle around 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 5 and fled the scene with two passengers was given two traffic tickets for what police originally categorized as a hit-and-run, according to a Friday report by The New York Times.
Friday’s article raised questions about whether starting cornerback P.J. Williams received favorable treatment from the Tallahassee Police Department. Williams was driving the car, which also carried two other passengers, including cornerback Ronald Darby.
Florida State President John Thrasher strongly denounced the article in a statement sent to university supporters. He said there was no information included the report that supported any of its assertions.
"We are disturbed that a newspaper with a distinguished reputation would print such a speculative story," Thrasher said in his statement.
Eileen Murphy, a New York Times spokeswoman, said it stands by the story.
Williams is expected to play Saturday when the No. 2-ranked Seminoles take on the Miami Hurricanes.
The police report states that a Century Buick sedan driven by Williams struck another vehicle as it was attempting to make a left turn off a four-lane road. The Times reports that both cars were totaled.
Police reportedly responded to the scene and began labeling the incident as a hit-and-run, which the Times notes is a criminal act. They ran the plate of the Buick and discovered that the vehicle belonged to Williams’ grandmother.
Williams reportedly returned to the scene about 20 minutes later, but the police report did not indicate that he was questioned about whether he had been drinking or why he had left. According to the Times, the police report states that there was no indication alcohol or drugs were involved. Furthermore, an officer reportedly crossed out notes that would have kept the car as evidence.
The Times reports that incident did not appear on Tallahassee’s public online database of police calls. The police allegedly claimed that was because of a technical error.
Williams was ticketed for improper left turn and for “unknowingly” driving with a suspended license, the Times reports. Officers can choose whether or not to press charges and give citations, police reportedly said.
The investigation also reportedly includes details of a break-in at an Exxon. Security video obtained by the Times allegedly shows Williams’ car trying to make the left turn in the direction of the gas station while the thief was about to leave. The two incidents, though, have not been linked.
University police also reportedly arrived at the crash, though the Times is uncertain what prompted them to respond and in what capacity they were involved. According to the Times:
FSU’s call logs indicated that the Tallahassee police called them at 3:38 a.m. seeking help in an “investigation.” Yet, a university spokesman said all they wanted was an after-hours phone number for a football coach to tell him two of his athletes had been in an accident; campus police could not locate a phone number.
The two campus officers — Sgt. Roy Wiley, the shift commander, and Cpl. Greg Washington — decided on their own to drive the crash scene to see if they could help, but they were not needed, the university said.
FSU’s police chief David L. Perry said in a statement that "it was all together proper for our officers to go to the scene."
Thrasher said in his statement that while FSU police were on the scene, they "did not participate in the accident investigation, make any arrests or advise any of the student-athletes involved."
After the crash, additional football players reportedly appeared at the scene. Ian Keith, the other driver involved in the collision, told the Times that a football player apologized to him. Keith noted that the player was "sort of rambling" before a female friend urged him to stop speaking. Again, per the Times’ report:
“She said to him, ‘Be quiet, you sound like you’ve been drinking,’ ” Mr. Keith said. “I remember that very clearly because it surprised me that she would say it. But the way he was speaking, I definitely had suspicions about drinking.”
Florida State and Tallahassee police have attracted negative media attention recently. FOX Sports’ Kevin Vaughan reported last month that city police and FSU officials hindered the investigation into whether Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston raped a woman in December 2012. That same day, the New York Times published a report that pointed out additional examples of police failing to properly pursue and investigate incidents involving Florida State players.
A TPD spokesman would not comment on The New York Times story, which quotes TPD Police Chief Michael DeLeo as saying the department would conduct an investigation to determine what happened. But Officer Dave Northway said the department was "not conducting an internal investigation at this time."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.