Arrest warrant issued for potential top NFL draft pick Jalen Carter for alleged role in fatal January car crash

Carter was allegedly street racing with a Georgia staffer before the staffer's vehicle crashed into telephone poles

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31: Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Jalen Carter (88) looks on during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl semifinal game against the Ohio State Buckeyes on December 31, 2022 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Jalen Carter has been seen as a possible No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL draft. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

An arrest warrant was issued Wednesday for potential No. 1 NFL draft pick Jalen Carter for his alleged role in a January traffic crash that killed a teammate and a recruiting staffer for the University of Georgia.

The Georgia defensive lineman is wanted on a charge of reckless driving and racing by the Athens-Clarke County Police Department after an investigation found that Carter was allegedly street racing with Chandler LeCroy on Jan. 15. Both LeCroy, a Georgia staffer, and Georgia offensive lineman Devin Willock were killed when the Ford Expedition LeCroy was driving left the road at a high rate of speed and hit two telephone poles. Two other occupants of LeCroy’s vehicle were injured and police quickly determined that speed was a contributing factor in the crash.

After the warrant was issued, Carter left the NFL combine and returned to Athens where he was booked and released after posting bond Wednesday night. He reportedly returned to the combine on Thursday.

From the Athens-Clarke County Police:

“The investigation found that Chandler LeCroy, driver of the 2021 Ford Expedition, and Jalen Carter, driver of a 2021 Jeep Trackhawk, were operating their vehicles in a manner consistent with racing shortly after leaving the downtown Athens area at about 2:30 a.m. 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. Evidence indicated that shortly before the crash the Expedition was traveling at about 104 miles per hour. The toxicology report indicated that LeCroy’s blood alcohol concentration was .197 at the time of the crash. Investigators determined that alcohol impairment, racing, reckless driving and speed were significant contributing factors to the crash.”

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Carter was at the scene of the crash and left before emergency personnel arrived. Per the report, “he gave shifting accounts of the wreck as an Athens police officer questioned him about whether he had been racing the car that crashed” after he returned to the crash scene approximately 90 minutes after it happened. The report notes that Carter was summoned back to the crash scene by Georgia director of player support and operations Bryant Gantt at the request of police after Gantt came to the scene of the crash.

The AJC report notes that police were able to obtain surveillance video from city cameras along the route the vehicles traveled the night of the crash. The crash happened in the early morning hours after Georgia’s national championship celebration and players and members of the recruiting staff were last at a strip club in downtown Athens and heading for a Waffle House when the crash occurred.

The Expedition LeCroy was driving was rented by the university and Georgia officials have told the AJC that she was unauthorized to be driving the vehicle. Linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson was also questioned at the scene of the crash. He was charged last week for reckless driving in a separate January incident.

“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,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said in a statement.

“We will continue to cooperate fully with the authorities while supporting these families and assessing what we can learn from this horrible tragedy.”

Carter is a potential No. 1 pick

Carter is widely seen as one of the best defensive players in the NFL draft and a possible No. 1 overall pick if the Chicago Bears don't make a trade with a team seeking to draft a QB at No. 1 overall.

Carter has played a key role for Georgia as the Bulldogs have won back-to-back national titles. He had six sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss over the past two seasons. Carter dealt with a knee injury that caused him to miss time in 2022 but was still a focus of constant double-teams while he was on the field. He had 32 total tackles in 13 games as a junior a season ago.

The announcement of the arrest warrant came out Wednesday as Carter was at the NFL combine. He was scheduled to speak to reporters as part of his combine participation Wednesday morning but that appearance was canceled as the NFL said Carter was still in medical testing and would be unable to talk.

Wednesday afternoon, Carter said he would be returning to Athens from the combine because of the warrants and said he had no question he would be "fully exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing." He was booked into the Athens-Clarke County Jail just after 11:30 p.m. ET Wednesday evening and released 16 minutes later after posting bond.

“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. Numerous media reports also have circulated this morning containing inaccurate information concerning the tragic events of January 15, 2023," Carter said in a statement posted to social media. "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.”