Aiken attorney Thomas Woodruff Jr. has been charged with careless driving following a fatal collision on March 30 that resulted in the death of Aiken resident Lukisha Thomas, according to the Aiken Department of Public Safety.
Woodruff was traveling on York Street when his car left the roadway, striking Thomas, 29, as she was walking on the sidewalk. Thomas was with her 2-year-old son and a man, Ray Charles Wooden Jr., at the time of the incident. Wooden was critically injured following the crash.
Thomas' 2-year-old son was taken to Aiken Regional Medical Centers, treated and released.
Investigating officers were able to rule out alcohol and drug impairment of Woodruff based on the observations of multiple officers reporting on the scene, police said.
According to a report police released to the media, officers also were able to rule out excessive speed as a contributing factor as well as the use of a cell phone.
According to the incident report, Woodruff told officers “something out of the driver's 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 stated.
After reviewing the available evidence in the case, Aiken Public Safety determined that the charge of careless driving was the most appropriate action currently available under state and local laws, according to the media release.
Lt. Karl Odenthal said after reviewing the evidence and the state's laws, a reckless driving or reckless vehicular homicide charge was not warranted since investigators found no evidence of criminal negligence by Woodruff.
During the investigation, he said, officers conducted a technical reconstruction of the collision. Officers examined evidence from the collision, analyzed data collected from the forensic mapping of the scene and interviewed several witnesses and the driver of the vehicle.
He noted that the typical penalty is a 30-day jail sentence or a fine ranging from $150 to $1,920.50, and that Woodruff is scheduled to appear in Magistrate's Court on May 6.
He added that Aiken Public Safety expresses their condolences to Thomas' family and hopes for a full and complete recovery for Wooden.
The careless driving ordinance states that it is unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle in a careless manner in disregard of the safety of persons or property upon any street, sidewalk, or public or private alley or parking area within the city.
The crash prompted the Aiken branch of the NAACP to hold a news conference in order to “make inquiry” in to the incident.
Phillip Howell, president of the organization's Aiken branch, said the news conference was called “to better understand the process and how it seems to be taking so long.”
Thirteen days passed between the time of the incident and the news conference, which was held April 12.
Howell said Friday that the decision to charge Woodruff with careless driving was “unacceptable” and that he was “disappointed.” He said he plans to meet with the Aiken NAACP's executive committee soon to formulate a plan and response.
A call to Woodruff was not returned by press time.