TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Moments after a deadly crash, a Pinellas County deputy pulled over the car involved in the collision and saw a shattered windshield.
That traffic stop happened just 12 minutes after a bicyclist was hit. The driver took off. The bicyclist, William Rothey, 37, died.
So, why did the deputy let the driver go? Right now, he is facing questions.
Rothey, known as Willie, was born and raised in Pinellas County. Years later, it was where he became a father. And on July 29, it’s where he was killed.
8 On Your Side spoke with his family.
“He loved hard, he was fiercely loyal, he had a huge family,” said Willie’s big brother, Brian Rothey.
“It’s not like they just bumped into him or hit him, um, he was mowed down,” Brian added. “It continuously plays over and over in your mind.”
Willie was on his bicycle when he was hit. Detectives from the Pinellas Park Police Department quickly arrived at the scene, but the driver was long gone.
Police had questions: Who did this, and where are they? As the department investigated the hit-and-run, a deputy from a different agency, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, stopped a car after noticing a tail light was out. His body camera video was rolling.
“I was just going to tell you, you got a light out over here so,” said the deputy.
Then he saw the windshield was caved in.
“Oh damn, I ain’t even seen this, okay. Where did this happen at? Where did that happen at?” the deputy asked.
Three female passengers were in the car. The women claimed they got into a crash at the club.
“Somebody hit us,” one told the deputy.
The deputy ran the driver’s license.
“How far you guys gotta go? Three minutes down here?” the deputy asked.
Then he let the women go.
Right now, the driver he had stopped, identified by police as Anaya Elisia Millan, is charged with hitting Willie. Police say more than 24 hours after the deadly crash, Millan turned herself in.
Brian says the delay was excruciating for Willie’s family.
“The worry that we all had wondering where this person is,” Brian recalled.
So, why did the deputy let the driver go?
According to court documents obtained by 8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi, the deputy didn’t know there had been a hit-and-run until “after he concluded his traffic stop.”
“Could he have been giving someone a free pass or a little leniency? Absolutely, does it help if you’re a pretty person,” said Brian.
Just a couple of minutes after stopping the women, it appears the deputy turned off his body camera. But 8 On Your Side obtained surveillance video of what happened next.
“What most people don’t see is that the officer has the passenger switch seats with the driver,” said Brian.
Surveillance video shows the deputy was still at the scene when the women switched seats.
“They literally had windshield glass in their laps, along with blood and hair from my brother,” said Brian.
Brian wants justice for his little brother. He says the driver, the passenger, and the deputy should each be held accountable.
But despite the grief, Brian had empathy for all parties involved.
“So many lives were destroyed with this wreck. So many lives,” Brian said. “The driver who has a family, she has friends, she has a child… you know, even the sheriff’s deputy that pulled them over.”
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has no comment since there’s an internal investigation underway.
Millan is facing a felony for leaving the scene of a crash involving a death.
In court documents, she asked the judge to reduce her bond so she could be with her 3-year-old child. She also wrote that she sends love to the victim’s family.
Investigator Mahsa Saeidi will continue to follow this story.
If you have a tip or question for Mahsa, email MSaeidi@WFLA.com.