A police officer told tennis star Venus Williams she likely caused a crash that fatally injured an elderly man last month but didn’t cite her, saying it appeared the actions of a third driver left her in a bad spot, body camera video shows.
The Palm Beach Gardens police video shows Williams walking uninjured and speaking calmly to officers minutes after the June 9 crash. The video also shows the other vehicle’s passenger, 78-year-old retired teacher Jerome Barson, was conscious, but bleeding and confused. It was later determined he had a broken spine and internal injuries. He died June 22. His wife, driver Linda Barson, told officers she had a broken arm.
Security video released earlier showed Williams was driving straight on a green light as she exited her neighborhood but a car turning left cut her off, forcing her to stop midway as she crossed a busy six-lane intersection. When she restarted, her light had turned red and the Barsons’ light had turned green. Their Hyundai sedan plowed into Williams’ Toyota Sequoia SUV.
The body camera video released late Thursday shows Williams, 37, listening intently as she sat in her SUV as Officer David Dowling, the lead investigator, explained to her why he believed after interviewing her and witnesses that she was at fault but wasn’t going to give her a ticket.
“You had a green light, so you had the right of way when you started to exit but because you got stuck in the middle of the intersection, you lost that right of way,” Dowling told Williams, who was dressed in a white tennis shirt and skirt and blue baseball cap. Linda Barson, he said, now had a green light “and had no way of knowing that you were going to come across.”
Williams asked Dowling, “In a situation like that, what do you do? Because you can’t back up.”
“Exactly,” Dowling replies. “You just got stuck in a bad situation there. I would just let the insurance companies work it out. I am not giving you a citation.”
Palm Beach Gardens police now say the investigation remains open and no fault has been assigned.
After the crash, Williams competed at Wimbledon, losing in the July 15 finals to Garbine Muguruza. Williams, who has won Wimbledon five times, broke down in tears when asked at a tournament press conference about the crash and Jerome Barson’s death.
Barson’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Williams on June 30, seeking unspecified damages.
“The body camera footage clearly supports our original assessment that Venus is at fault for this accident,” the estate’s attorney, Michael Steinger, said in a statement Friday.
Williams’ attorney, Malcolm Cunningham, declined comment through his spokeswoman.