RALEIGH — The state Alcohol Law Enforcement Division has charged a 21-year-old man with purchasing 60 beers for underage teens at a Johnston County party last month, including the driver involved in a crash that killed an 18-year-old high school student.
The agency also filed charges against a 16-year-old who hosted the party where agents say the underage drinking took place. Then they went further and tracked down other teenagers who were at the party, charging nine of them with having alcohol and, in some cases, marijuana at the party.
ALE announced the charges Thursday, including a warning to teens who attend events where underage drinking occurs.
Kids should know that even though the police dont show up at the party they can still be charged, said Jeff Lasater, special agent in charge of ALE in Raleigh. Similar parties go on all the time all over Wake and Johnston counties. But we dont find out about them until something like this happens.
Soon after the party ended in the early hours of Feb. 16, one of the teens, Cleveland High School student William Lee Tippett, 18, of Garner died after he was thrown from a speeding pickup truck which ran off the road and overturned several times, according to the Highway Patrol.
State troopers charged the driver of the Ford pickup, Bryan Davis Gilmore, 17, of Smithfield with felony death by motor vehicle, driving while impaired, driving after consuming alcohol while younger than 21 years of age and reckless driving.
State troopers say the truck Gilmore was driving was traveling about 85 mph on Josephine Road in the Cleveland community when it ran off the right side of the road. Investigators say Gilmore overcorrected and the truck overturned several times, causing Tippett to be ejected and flung about 20 feet into the road. Tippett died at the scene. The truck traveled about 242 feet and came to a rest upside-down on the side of the road.
The posted speed limit on Josephine Road is 45 mph, according to the Highway Patrols accident report.
The investigating trooper did not find evidence of alcohol in the cab of the truck, but the officer did notice a lot of Solo-type cups in the vehicle, said Lasater.
There were no open or closed (alcohol) containers, Lasater added. Still, the trooper suspected drugs or alcohol was a factor in the crash and ALE was notified.
The accident occurred about 3 a.m. Johnston County emergency workers transported Gilmore and Joseph Cole Brewer, 16, of Clayton to WakeMed in Raleigh. An ALE agent visited the hospital soon after the teens arrived, Lasater said.
The investigation started that morning at the hospital, Lasater said. One of our agents went to talk with both young men.
The ALE spokesman said Gilmore had already been charged and did not reveal much, but the other teen, Brewer, told them that they had just left a party that he hosted at his home on Garnet Lane in Clayton. Brewer also named other teens who attended the party.
The agent returned to the hospital around noon, Lasater said.
Other youngsters agreed to be interviewed, he said. Of the 15 we spoke to, the great majority admitted to drinking.
Lasater said ALE was able to identify most of the 15 teens through a series of interviews, in which one person would name a friend who was at the party. That person would then name another and so on.
ALE agents said they learned that Carl Jerome Watson, 21, of Clayton purchased the alcohol and that some of the high-school students gave him money to cover the costs of the beer.
According to ALE, Watson was riding in Gilmores pickup truck and Brewer was a passenger when Watson purchased an 18-pack of Bud Lite, an 18-pack of Busch Lite and an 18-pack of Natural Lite from Howards Mini Mart in Clayton. The pickup truck made a second stop at the Fiddle Stix convenience store on N.C. 42 in Clayton, where Watson purchased an additional 12 pack of Bud Lite, according to ALE.
Theres a video in the case of Mr. Watson purchasing beer, Lasater said.
ALE agents charged Watson with 16 counts of aiding and abetting underage persons in possessing more than 60 malt beverages on the evening of Feb. 15, hours before the fatal crash.
Just over a year ago, police asked ALE agents to trace the source of alcohol at a party in North Raleigh where teenagers had been drinking. One of the teens, 17-year-old Millbrook High School student Elizabeth Molloy, was killed soon after leaving the party when the Jeep SUV in which she was riding crashed into a tree off Rainwater Road.
Police charged the Jeeps driver, Garrett Prince, 16, with felony death by vehicle, careless and reckless driving, speeding, possession of alcohol and marijuana and driving while impaired.
ALE agents determined that Prince and Molloy had persuaded a 21-year-old man to purchase two 1.75-liter bottles of Bacardi Dragon Berry rum for them. They also charged the host of the party.