Before he completed a series of field sobriety tests after police say he struck and killed an 11-year-old girl with his SUV, Jeffrey Wakefield posed a question to an officer.
"Do you have any news on her?" Wakefield said.
Charleston police have released dashcam footage showing the moments after Wakefield, who authorities say was under the influence, drove his SUV into Selma Akguel as she walked with her father the evening of July 9 near Cannon Park on Rutledge Avenue and Calhoun Street. Akguel's family was vacationing in Charleston from Middelfart, Denmark.
After Wakefield's Nissan Pathfinder struck the girl, police said, the vehicle continued on through the park grass and only came to a halt after it barreled into a tree. Akguel was taken to a hospital where she died. Wakefield was ultimately charged with felony DUI and reckless homicide.
Shortly before the fatal crash, police said Wakefield also struck an unoccupied parked car about a half-mile away near Rutledge Avenue and Morris Street and left the scene.
During the field sobriety tests, officer Blaine Morgan had Wakefield follow a flashlight with just his eyes, walk toe-to-toe and balance on one foot while counting out loud. Police would later indicate that Wakefield's eyes were red and glassy, his speech was slurred at times and that he stumbled when attempting to walk in a straight line.
Wakefield maintained to the officer that he was not under the influence but that he was shaken and nervous.
"And you guys gotta also understand ... obviously I'm a little nervous — well I'm not a little — I'm very nervous," Wakefield told Morgan. "I just got in a frickin' car wreck and hit an 11-year-old girl."
Before and after the three tests, multiple of which police said Wakefield failed, the West Ashley man referenced the wreck on multiple occasions.
Wakefield initially told police that a faulty accelerator or a jammed flip-flop were to blame for the incident. Police, however, were skeptical of the account after administering the field sobriety tests and hearing a phone call between Wakefield and his father.
"I got high and killed someone tonight," he said, according to police.
"While we are still processing the tragedy of July 9th, it is important to us that the Akguel family know: we grieve for them. We, too, know the pain of tragically losing a child," Wakefield's family said in a statement last week. "We sincerely pray that God's grace will bring some comfort to them."
Prior to the crash, Wakefield had been with an old friend in downtown Charleston where the two ate oysters and patronized several bars, police said. Wakefield told investigators he consumed two non-alcoholic beers. He blew a BAC of 0 percent during a Breathalyzer test, although police have said that Wakefield is prescribed several medications. Police will rely on blood and urine analyses to help them determine what substances Wakefield may have consumed before getting behind the wheel.
City officials have said in the weeks since the young girl's death that they would renew efforts to bolster traffic enforcement.
Wakefield remained jailed as of Monday after previously being denied bail.
"I’m not gonna sit here and play a pity party, because the only thing I’m really worried about is this girl, OK?" Wakefield said to Morgan from the back of the cruiser following his arrest. "The fact of the matter is I’m a little upset because (expletive) happens, you know?"
During the approximately 15 or so minutes it takes to drive from the scene of the sobriety tests to the Cannon Detention Center, Wakefield talks to the officer about his attempts at sobriety and a relapse he experienced in January. He also remarked on other occasions he had to take field sobriety tests and insisted he was not under the influence.
The 30-year-old has one prior arrest in South Carolina, state records show, which was on a September 2016 misdemeanor prostitution charge in Columbia. Officials have also said that Wakefield has "an extensive driving history" in Georgia.
"I’ve been busting my ass to (expletive) get things right in my life," Wakefield says from the back of the cruiser, as shown in the dashcam footage. "And so I make a mistake. It doesn’t have anything to do with drugs or alcohol. But now, like, since I made a mistake and I hurt somebody, I’m being treated as a criminal again."