NAACP to hold press conference on pedestrian fatality
The Aiken branch of the NAACP will hold a press conference today to “make inquiry” into a vehicle crash on March 30 that killed one pedestrian and hospitalized another.
The press conference will be at 2 p.m. at Smith-Hazel Recreation Center on Kershaw Street. The public is invited to attend.
Philip Howell, president of the organization’s Aiken branch, said much of the group’s recent meeting was spent discussing the incident.
“People were up in arms. They’re clamoring about information on what’s going on,” he said.
The Aiken Department of Public Safety still is investigating the incident, which happened about 2 p.m. on March 30 on the 800 block of York Street. Police said 29-year-old Lukisha Thomas was walking on the sidewalk with her 2-year-old son and a man, Ray Charles Wooden Jr., when they were struck by a 2006 Jeep driven by Aiken attorney Thomas G. Woodruff Jr.
Thomas and Wooden were transported by ambulance to Georgia Regents Medical Center, where Thomas died during surgery, authorities said. Thomas’ son was taken to Aiken Regional Medical Centers, where he was examined and released.
Wooden was last reported in stable condition.
No charges have yet been filed in the incident.
An accident reconstruction team with Aiken Public Safety has been on the scene twice since the incident, gathering data and preparing a scale drawing of the scene. The team’s final report will be taken to the Solicitor’s Office to discuss what charges, if any, will be appropriate.
The team’s preliminary findings indicate the vehicle left the roadway and struck the victims, who were on the sidewalk, police have said.
According to an incident report, Woodruff told officers “something out of the driver side of his vehicle caught his attention and distracted him.” Woodruff then heard a “loud bump” and realized he had struck the pedestrians, the report said.
Authorities have said it would take two to three weeks from the day of the incident for the team’s report to be completed.
Howell said the NAACP has called the press conference “to better understand the process and how it seems to be taking so long.” He said he’s asked Charles Barranco, director of Aiken Public Safety, to attend.
“A lot of it is probably just misconception,” Howell said. “People just don’t know. We’re trying to get people in the know.”
Howell said his office’s phone has been “blowing up” with calls inquiring about whether or not the NAACP would speak up on the investigation.
“We advocate for civil rights. That’s our job,” he said. “Another job is to agitate, sometimes, or to let people know we’re with you, but we’re watching you. We’re not, in a bad sense, watching you, but let them know that we’re gonna be on top of it. We’re just hoping they’ll send somebody that can answer some questions – legal questions that we just can’t answer.”
Lt. Karl Odenthal said Aiken Public Safety will have a representative at the press conference. He added that investigators are expecting the last of the results from the crash “sometime soon,” possibly within the week.
“We know it’s a tragic event. Our thoughts and efforts are toward the victim’s family,” he said. “... We’re trying to do the best we can and have an investigation that has integrity to it and has the correct results. We want justice for Ms. Thomas just like everyone else does, and we want to make sure we’re doing the right thing. Sometimes that just takes a little more time to make sure you have it right. As soon as we have these other results back, we’ll know where we stand on things.”