Detectives are investigating whether a motorist jailed last weekend on a reckless homicide charge had deliberately swerved his SUV at two men visiting Folly Beach for a bachelor party, a sheriff's spokesman said Tuesday.
Justin G. Plumlee, 29, of Sophia, N.C., was killed in the hit-and-run crash Saturday, and Ryan Daniels of Washington, D.C., also 29, was seriously injured.
A vehicle struck Plumlee and Daniels, who had planned to serve as groomsmen at a friend's upcoming wedding, around 2:15 a.m. as they walked along West Ashley Avenue. The SUV then left the scene.
Maj. Eric Watson of the Charleston County Sheriff's Office said detectives had fielded reports that the duo was involved in an earlier dispute at a bar.
The deputies also had new information prompting them to investigate the case as a possible hate crime, Watson said, but none of the reports had been confirmed. Plumlee was white, and Daniels is black. The man jailed in the crash is white.
"We received information (Tuesday) that they might have been targeted," Watson said. "We cannot rule that in; we cannot rule that out. This case is far from being closed."
Andrew Robert Lanzaro, 30, of James Island remained jailed Tuesday in lieu of $300,000 bail on charges of reckless homicide, a felony punishable with up to 10 years in prison, and of leaving the scene of a wreck involving great bodily injury, which also carries a decade-long maximum sentence.
After Plumlee died at Medical University Hospital, deputies said they upgraded a hit-and-run charge against Lanzaro to reckless homicide.
Lanzaro was not facing a charge of leaving the scene of a wreck involving death, which is punishable with up to 25 years. Watson could not immediately explain on Tuesday why deputies chose the reckless homicide count, which carries lesser prison time.
Daniels suffered life-threatening injuries in the crash, an incident report stated, but his condition was listed Tuesday as "fair," hospital spokesman Tony Ciuffo said.
Plumlee's funeral will be 11 a.m. Saturday at Marlboro Friends Church in North Carolina, according to an obituary.
He had been working as a media assistant at a North Carolina middle school and wanted to become a teacher, his father said Tuesday.
The wedding that he was supposed to participate in was scheduled for later this month in Summerfield, N.C. Daniels is the best man for their mutual friend, Drew Sykes.
"Justin was a fine young man," Plumlee's father, Gary Plumlee, said. "Everybody's hurting."
Debris, including a broken headlight, left behind at the crash site Saturday morning helped deputies piece together their initial case against Lanzaro, according to the report.
Nine hours after the crash, the deputies arrested him at his Roper Road home after Folly Beach Public Safety Department officers found a 2004 Honda CRV with damage to its windshield and left front headlight, Watson said.
The arrest wasn't his first, according to the State Law Enforcement Division.
On July 9, Folly Beach police officers jailed Lanzaro on charges of driving under the influence and possessing marijuana and another controlled substance, SLED records showed.
He was arrested again July 18 when Charleston police said they found him so drunk on King Street that "he could not care for himself," an incident report stated, and had to lean against a building's window to remain standing. Lanzaro could not form a coherent sentence or walk straight, the report said.
As part of the investigation after Lanzaro's most recent arrest, Watson said detectives were tracking down witnesses and interviewing people who might have seen any argument involving the victims and Lanzaro at a Folly Beach bar.
Deputies also were investigating information that the SUV "came out of nowhere and swerved and struck both of the men" after they left the bar, Watson said.
"We don't know if it was a targeted act," Watson said. "We don't know if he lost control of his vehicle. But at this time, we can tell that his act was reckless."
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