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Johnthony Walker: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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Johnthony Walker.

A bus driver asked elementary school students if they were ready to die before crashing the speeding bus Monday afternoon on a windy road in Chattanooga, the mother of a 6-year-old girl killed in the horrific crash says.

Jasmine Mateen’s daughter, Zyaira, was killed. Another daughter survived the crash and told her what happened.

“My daughter said right before the bus flipped that he was speeding around the curve and asked them ‘Are y’all ready to die,'”Jasmine Mateen told CBS News.

Johnthony Walker, 24, is facing five counts of vehicular homicide in the crash that left five students dead and nearly two dozen injured, including several with serious injuries, Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher said at a press conference.

Police have not confirmed Mateen’s claim.

Photos from the scene of the devastating crash showed the bus split in half around a large tree.

Mateen told CBS News she had previously complained about the bus driver’s behavior, starting in August, to no avail.

“This is an absolute nightmare for this community, for this police department, for our partners in fire and EMS,” Fletcher said. “But I can assure you that the public safety professionals in Chattanooga are prepared and trained to make sure this is investigated thoroughly and we’re making sure that we have all the resources the families, the school and the community need to respond to this tragedy and trauma in a way that is appropriate.”

The children killed in the crash were identified by family members on Tuesday: Zyaira Mateen, 6; Cordayja Jones, 9; D’Myunn Brown, 6; Zoie Nash, 9; and Zyanna Harris, 10.

Six other students remained in critical condition Tuesday.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. Police Say Walker Was Driving Well Over the 30 MPH Speed Limit on the Winding Road Before the Bus Overturned

(Chattanooga Fire Department)

(Chattanooga Fire Department)

The crash happened in the Brainerd area on Talley Road about 3:20 p.m., The Chattanoogan reports.

The bus was carrying 35 children and the driver, Johnthony Walker, and the students were all coming from Woodmere Elementary School, authorities said. The students ranged in age from kindergarten to fifth grade, according to police. The crash sent 24 of the children to the hospital, including several with serious injuries.

Police said the investigation into what caused the crash remained under investigation, but said there are indications that speed played a role. The speed limit is 30 mph in the area.

“The defendant was traveling at a high speed on Talley Road, which is a narrow, winding road,” police said in the arrest affidavit. “Based on witness statements and physical evidence the defendant was driving the school bus at a high rate of speed well above the posted speed limit of 30 mph.”

Police said Walker “lost control of the bus and swerved off of the roadway to the right, striking an elevated driveway and mailbox, swerved to the left and began to overturn, striking a telephone pole and a tree.”

You can read the arrest affidavit below:

Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher said at a press conference the bus was the only vehicle involved in the crash.

Fletcher called the crash the “worst nightmare” for public safety professionals.

“Our hearts go out, as well as the heart’s of all the people around me, to the family, the neighborhood, the school and all the people involved in this,” Fletcher said at a press conference. “We assure you we’re doing everything we can to help everybody be as safe as they can, get the care they need and get the support they need.”

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2. Walker Crashed His Bus Just 2 Months Ago, Police Say

Johnthony Walker crashed a school bus into another vehicle in September, two months before the fatal crash, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.

Walker was driving his bus east on Sylvan Drive about 2:40 p.m. on September 20 when he crossed the center line and swiped the side of a Kia, whose driver was heading west through the curve, according to a Chattanooga Police report obtained by the newspaper.

No one was injured and the vehicles only had minor damage. It is not clear if there were students on the bus during that crash or if speed was a factor.

Police have not yet released information about how long Walker has been a bus driver. Information about his driving record has also not yet been made public.

He works for Durham School Services, an Illinois-based company that provides bus service to Hamilton County schools, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.

“We are working with the Chattanooga Police Department and Hamilton County School District to investigate,” David Duke, CEO of Durham School Services said in a written statement to the newspaper. “We also have additional team members arriving in Chattanooga today to provide support.”

Craig Harris, a parent whose daughter, stepson and niece survived the crash, told ABC’s Good Morning America he had seen Walker driving a “little faster than he probably should be going” in the past.

“That’s the reason why I tried to be there in the mornings when he’s pulling up,” Harris said. “And also in the evenings, because some days he would come up the street and drop them off, some days he would go down the street and drop them off, and I’m not a bus driver, so I’m not sure what their protocol is, but I kind of figured that wasn’t something he was supposed to be doing.”


3. Walker’s License Was Suspended in 2014 for Failing to Show Proof of Insurance After a Crash That Caused Property Damage

(Chattanooga Fire Department)

(Chattanooga Fire Department)

Johnthony Walker is in police custody and was cooperating with the investigation. The charges against him were announced at a press conference at 11:30 p.m. Monday. He was being interviewed by investigators earlier in the day, and police said his blood would be drawn and tested.

He was also been charged with reckless endangerment and reckless driving, and could face other charges, police said.

Walker does not have a criminal record, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation told WSMV-TV.

But Walker’s license was suspended from March 3, 2014, to March 28, 2014, for failure to show proof of insurance following an October 2013 crash that involved property damage, WZTV reports. No other details about that crash were immediately available.

Vehicular homicide is a felony charge, but the severity depends on whether the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, according to Tennessee law. Police have not said if Walker was under the influence at the time of the crash.

But Jasmine Mateen, the mother of a 6-year-old girl killed in the crash, said her daughter told her the driver had been drinking on the first day of school, CBS News reports.

If no alcohol or drugs were involved, the charge is a Class C felony, carrying a possible sentence of 3 to 15 years in prison. If the driver was under the influence, it is a Class B felony, carrying a possible sentence of 8 to 30 years in prison.

In both cases, the charge results in a loss of license for between 3 to 8 years, if convicted.

Reckless endangerment and reckless driving are both misdemeanors.

The case will proceed to a grand jury in Hamilton County, police said. Walker is being represented by the public defender’s office.

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4. Walker’s Mother Says the Crash Was ‘God’s Will’ & Her Son Was ‘Trying to Get Kids Off the Bus But There Was So Much Blood’

(Chattanooga Fire Department)

(Chattanooga Fire Department)

Walker graduated from Brainerd High School in 2011. He has a 3-year-old son, WSMV-TV reports.

His mother, Gwenevere Cook, told CNN her son was trying to pull students off the bus.

“He is a marvelous son. For two years he worked two jobs. He’s never been in trouble before,” she said. “He is a respected young man, grew up in Chattanooga and is liked by everyone.”

Cook also released a statement to CNN:

This is a horrible accident. But this was God’s will and all we can do is try to get through it with God’s grace. It is a horrible nightmare. I feel bad for my son and I am torn up for the family members. All this is new to us. He was trying to get kids off the bud but there was so much blood. When he talked to me he was terrified He told me I’ve been in an accident, he was trying to get this kids off the bu

She told CBS News her son doesn’t drink or use drugs, and that she hasn’t heard any complaints about his driving.

He is being held in the Hamilton County Jail on $107,500 bail with his first court appearance scheduled for November 29, according to online records.

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5. The NTSB Says They Are There to Determine What Happened & Prevent It From Occurring again

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Bus driver Johnthony Walker has been charged with five counts of vehicular manslaughter in a school bus crash that killed several elementary school students. (Chattanooga Fire Department)

In addition to the local investigators, the National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team to the crash site.

The NTSB typically investigates serious incidents with multiple fatalities involving buses.

“We investigate every accident seriously to determine what caused it to try to prevent it from happening again,” NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart told reporters. “That’s the reason we’re there is to determine what caused it and make recommendations to prevent it from happening again.

“We certainly send our condolences to those parents, my daughter rides a school bus every morning. We will do everything we can to try to prevent this from happening again,” Hart said.

He said the NTSB team will be on scene for about 7 to 10 days, and a final report could be completed in as long as a year. But emergency recommendations can be made if anything that needs to be immediately addressed is found, Hart said.

Police were still at the scene of the crash late Monday night, and Police Chief Fred Fletcher said a warrant had been issued to retrieve the black box and videos from the bus.

The bus was towed away from the scene Tuesday morning to be examined by investigators.

Local leaders from Chattanooga and around Tennessee issued statements expressing condolences to the families and loved ones of the students involved in the crash.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with victims of today’s tragic school bus crash in Chattanooga,” Governor Bill Haslem said in a statement. “It’s always a very sad situation when you have a school bus crash with children involved and we will do everything we can to assist the local authorities and the victims’ families.”

According to The Chattanoogan, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said, “This is a heart-breaking day for Hamilton County. Our thoughts and prayers are with the children who were on the Woodmore Elementary School bus this afternoon, their families are also in our prayers tonight. The students of Woodmore Elementary are also in our thoughts and prayers this evening. I’d like to ask all Hamilton County residents to say a prayer tonight for all involved in today’s tragedy.”

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond told reporters he is “deeply saddened” for the families of those who lost loved ones.

“As the agency responsible for the School Resource Officer program in Hamilton County, my staff and I are deeply saddened by the loss of these young children. There are several families in our County that will not have their loved ones come home tonight and we as a community will feel the sadness and hurt from this event for a very long time to come,” Hammond said. “”I am very proud of the Chattanooga firefighters, police officers, and Hamilton County EMS personnel who helped to rescue the injured. I am also very proud of the members of the HCSO who worked along side our city first responders.”

Schools in Hamilton County, including Woodmere Elementary, were open Tuesday with grief counselors available.

“We will have support for our students, our staff, members of our community,” Hamilton County Interim School Superintendent Kirk Kelly told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “We will continue to provide this support for as long as it is needed. We will do everything we can to try and help the families involved in this tragedy.”

Kelly was at the hospital with the families Monday.

A memorial service is scheduled for Tuesday night at 6 p.m. at New Monumental Baptist Church in Chattanooga, near Woodmore Elementary, the district said.

The United Way, in partnership with the school district, created a fundraising site to help the families of the victims.

“Many families will need financial assistance for a variety of instances, including but not limited to immediate medical bills, long-term care, mental health care, and basic necessities,” Kelly Nave, of the United Way, said in a statement.

You can find more information about how to donate here.

“Our hearts are broken,” Kelly said.

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96 comments

  1. I think this would be a wonderful opportunity to pause for a moment and give thanks for the many great contributions of the black community and their culture to our society. Their peaceful and generous nature makes them ideal neighbors, lending testimony to their exceptional family values and parenting skills unrivaled by any other culture. Their commitment to academic excellence enriches our schools and serves as an example to all who hope to achieve prominence as a people. Real estate values are fueled by the influx of African-Americans into an area due to their caring and respectful nurturing of these communities, an example of all they have achieved by their enthusiasm for self-improvement through hard work and self-reliant can do nature. Without their industrious and creative drive we would be poorer as a nation. Don’t Make The Black Kids Angry, by Colin Flaherty.

    • Ed, I think I speak for everyone when I say that you should have been on that bus instead. Leave it to a racist to find a way to turn this into a racist issue. Burn in hell, you demon…

    • What this man did was wrong!!! It was a crime against a Police officer because he was a POLICE OFFICER. As a black man my self, I can blame Dylan Roof who walked in a church and killed in COLD BLOOD the lives of 9 People BECAUSE OF THE COLOUR OF THEIR SKIN, I cannot blame white people for HIS crime. If someone wants to put the blame on the entire black race like you do Ed Foster, this shows there are people out there who really have a low IQ and or Xenophobic a very horrible disease that cripples the mind of people to have fear of people who have not done anything wrong to them.

      • My above comment is for the cop killer, as for the bus driver driving wreckless, there are drivers of all ethnic backgrounds who caused car accident, again the xenophobic disease to cast this on an entire race is absurd and it shows how serious this disease is to eat away on the brain of adults to live in fear and condemn other innocent people have done nothing to anyone. Hitler was a bad and mentally sick man, that does not make ALL Germans bad people.

        Big Pharmaceutical corporations own by White people and white shareholders that raise the prices of prescription drugs or outsource jobs to benefit their pockets and shareholders, should we blame all White people or just these greedy people? The white politicians who are aware of the people of all races including whites who need the medication turn a deaf ear for this much needed help for people, should we resort to hating white people or hating the disgusting way these politicians, and pharmaceutical companies take advantage and prevent all people who want to live a healthy productive life by making the medication they need to improve their health?

        Let us look at the bigger picture here. We can find bad people in all races.

    • There will be an influx of white nationalist comments/posts on every news article from every news agency on the internet, whether it’s racially motivated or not. They will invade your social media, as well. Whether hired or not, please know that it is here. They are Obama’d out and their new fearless leader has given them the platform they have been yearning for. Eight.Long.Years. This is a result of electing our first black president. This is the backlash. I hope that you all learn to recognize these foul-smelling vermin for what they are. They merely antagonize. Your best bet is to ignore them. People hate being ignored. If no one pays attention to them, they walk alone. They will go away, if they have no one to ‘talk’ to. Please spread the word.

  2. Sounds like the bus driver, identified as Johnthony Walker, may just as well go into isolation, because everyone in the country wants to hang him right now. Videos of the neighborhood show 25 mph speed limit signs and that speed was obviously surpassed to do that type of damage. I will bet he was on his cell phone also.

      • I’m bald headed and White as snow! If I could rock some dreads I’d do it in a heart beat, so chill with the racial crap..dude more than likely made a TERRIBLE mistake or decision with some TERRIBLE consequences that will be with him for the rest of his life..that’s hell people! Y’all have a very Happy Thanksgiving and remember those families that will be missing their children this holiday season, I tell ya, that’s HORIFFIC to me!

        • “MISTAKE” ? ? ?…A “mistake” is an error in your checkbook or forgetting to buy cat food…..This was a conscious DECISION…..Like criminals “regretting” their past “mistakes”…..Uh….sorry I broke into your house and killed your sister….it was aa “mistake”

  3. We know how this works if you are black in America. Nothing will happen to that driver. If they attempt to prosecute him, here comes Jackson, Sharpton, NAACP, Black Lives Matter and of course, Obama.

    • In this case Nancy all the children on the bus were black. He will get no sympathy from the black community. But if the driver had been white he probably wouldn’t live long enough to go on trial. I’ll bet the journalist won’t show pictures of all the whites lined up outside the Blood Assurance locations until they closed at midnight. That would be too ‘un-racist’. (I live in Chattanooga) Had the children been white your comment would be correct. So sad.

  4. First off the school should have never hired this thug. Looking at a picture of this innocent and misunderstood angel(NOT).Johnthony Walker…the last person I would allow to touch or drive a school bus. Wanna bet it was either drugs, alcohol, stupidity(a disability), fell asleep, or was texting his bros. Nothing will happen and the DOJ will shortly tell the local police to let the poor man(or child) go.

  5. Johnthony is not a name. He should have been disqualified from a job based on this “name” to begin with. But upon seeing him, it should have been obvious to anyone in a position to hire a school bus driver that this guy should never have been hired.

  6. Reports are coming in from kids that were on the bus, saying that the bus driver said “are you all ready to die” moments before the crash.

  7. These comments make me so sad. This story is a tragedy. There are parents who have to bury their children and yet everyone wants to focus on race? Why is everyone so mean and judgmental? Does it make you feel like a better person? I pray that everyone can dig deep and focus on the tragedy that has occurred for all involved. These are children and I hope that if any of you have some of your own, you are teaching them to show more love and compassion than you are currently displaying.

    • These comments make me so glad. This story is a tragedy. There are parents who have to bury their children and everyone should focus on race! Sometimes it’s in order to be so mean and judgmental! It does make some feel like a better person to cut to the root cause and toss pc to the wind. I pray that everyone can dig deep and focus on the tragedy that has occurred for all involved. These are children and I hope that if any of you have some of your own, you are teaching them to show as much tough love, TRUTH and compassion that some here are currently displaying.

      • You are a sad and angry person. While you are asking for others to pray for these children, you should include prayer for yourself. Glad to see that you find joy in spreading hate.

    • I have to jump in here too. LOL. Everything these days is about race. Get a clue. Also if you have faith as I definitely do you should look on the bright side. I always see these stories and say to myself “Hey, those aren’t my kids”!! LOL LOL

      • So at this point I will disengage. I see that I am communicating with people who are really clueless. If you have kids, nieces or nephews, I do pray that they are never in a situation like this. I see that there are some people who find humor and joy in the suffering of others, I would not consider anyone like that to be a person of faith. Rather, these are folks who are miserable, hurting, angry, and unaccomplished. You can stay on this site and continue to spew hate since you have nothing better to do. I’ll go back to having productive conversations with intelligent-minded, compassionate, normal people. Blessings to you and have a great day.

        • Thanks for granting us permission. Sorry if we offended you on YOUR message board here. LOL. Good thing there’s someone a lot smarter than you who will judge us in the end.
          Wham Bam Thank Ya Ma’am UMPH UMPH so there! LOL

  8. What type of whacked out people are on this site???Who is FrosteeThony? He must be an unemployed hick from the south. You probably don’t even have any dishes to wash because you hunt and eat your meat out in the wild. LOL!!

  9. THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO ABOUT RACE! This could have happened anywhere. Our cities need to start identifying any possible issues that a person may have had when driving, even down to speeding tickets. I don’t know about my city, as I don’t have children so I have not had to worry about it before, but I would hope that Chattanooga does an overhaul on the hiring process for bus drivers as well as intensive training on the sanctity of the lives that they are transporting every single day.

    My heart breaks for everyone involved in this situation. Even though he was negligent, he will live with this for the rest of his life. And those families who lost their children or had children who were injured… my heart just breaks for them.

  10. It’s funny how when a black person commits a crime, 1/2 the comments are racial. BECAUSE HE’S BLACK this is why it happened. Black’s are no good, etc.

    When a WHITE guy shoots up a church, kills kids at a theater, eats a guys face, kills kids at a school, kills his whole family (one of these things happens every week), it’s because he’s MENTALLY ILL. I never see “You WHITE piece of S***! Go back to Europe!!” Why have I NEVER seen this before???

    There are over 4 MILLION WHITE GUYS in prison in the world. 4 MILLION, look it up!! But yet Whitey acts like minorities commit all the crimes and should be hated. Stupid…

    • Ah, but did you notice how the whites poured out into the streets to protest Dylan Roof’s arrest? Did you see the way they destroyed the town and burned a pharmacy? NO, you didn’t. Some cultures ARE superior to others.

  11. You can judge book by it’s cover. One look at that dude and you can tell he’s worthless. And when did we start hiring young drivers with poor driving records to transport children. I hope they throw the book at him. (Probably couldn’t read it though).

  12. How does anybody know if this man even really said that to a child. These children were scared and young. Surly to God.. nobody here believes this man just decided to wreck this bus on purpose and have these innocent lives lost and so many children hurt ??? Please don’t let rumors fly and cause all this mayhem and upset this parents anymore than they already are. Let the police do their job and learn the facts. If this man was drinking.. doing drugs..did anyone ever think it was a accident and this man probably feels horrible about this happening? I know I feel bad for him as well. Please don’t judge on rumors. Please just pray for all involved in this terrible accident.

    • I agree, we don’t know the driver, but he too is a father and I honestly think he is punishing himself emotionally beyond words. PLEASE don’t be so quick to judge and stop adding rumors to an already horrible situation. Also please remember there are many children watching the grown-ups, who need to show them the Right way to handle things like this in life -We should be giving our support, love, & financial help to the families, THAT should be the focus. All this crazy hate filled nonsense is disrespectful to the victims and takes attention away from the families and other surviving children that desperately need our support. Don’t become part of the problem. With the holiday so close, I strongly urge all of you to appreciate the fact that in a split moment everything you love can change in a blink. Hug your kids a little tighter and longer tonight, you’re blessed to have them. Please, just stop the anger & hate, and be kind, YES, it’s that simple, just be kind to EVERYONE. After all, we all hurt, we all cry, we all feel, and we all bleed the same color. Bless you all, hope your holiday is peaceful ♡

  13. I would like to hear from the genius who hired this moron. Seriously ….. Let’s start holding people in administration accountable for these dumb decisions. License suspension … previous school bus crash ? ……Very easy decision to bypass this man on a hiring list.. ACCOUNTABILITY !!!

  14. Tom Cleary you are reporting rumor as fact! You are part of the problem it’s complete garbage. As a writer and editor you suck! People should be held accountable for spreading fake bullshit

  15. Words can’t even express what these families are going through. Just remember stay strong and GOD is with you. Jasmine Mateen you and your kids will make it through this ordeal. You are a strong woman. Again, I can’t even imagine what you and your kids are going through. Big hugs to you all. All the way from Oregon!!! We love you and nomatter what You remember you are not alone.

  16. my Aunty Violet recently got a fantastic white Mitsubishi Eclipse Convertible by work part-time using a lap-top. have a peek at
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  17. It would cost for a 60 passenger bus approx 15-20k for belts. We get ticketed if we don’t have one but since the cost of approximately 10cents per seat per day for a year is too much our kids in a bus accident are just thrown about.

  18. If I’m the driver for a good attorney which means for him to get a fair trial will cost him 250k in legal expenses…
    This guy is already guilty in the court of public opinion. He doesn’t have the dough for a good case.
    Probability of him going to jail very very strong even if he wasnt speeding.

  19. “But Jasmine Mateen, the mother of a 6-year-old girl killed in the crash, said her daughter told her the driver had been drinking on the first day of school, CBS News reports.”

    She let her kids get on the bus after this? WTF?

    There is no way I’d put my kids on a bus with a driver who showed up looking like that, especially if one of my kids told me he had been drinking before. I’m reminded of Otto from The Simpsons.

  20. How about sea tbelts with supports on the back of seats to prevent whiplash!? Thousands of Americans have been fined, arrested, imprisoned, children placed in foster care over traffic stops and accidents for violating restraint laws. However, the government does not seem to believe that these rules should apply to school buses — result? Dead children! I am getting tired of the self-righteousness of government who believe that safety laws for the citizens are not needed for their actions and daily lives!

  21. It’s the beginning of the end. Remember Planet of the Apes. They take human jobs and start to revolt. I mean we had one for President for 8 years. He improved public transportation by planting trees closer together in all our communities. He wanted mankind to pay for greater healthcare because these chimps wouldn’t pick cotton out of a bottle cuz they wuz too proud to do so. It’s all prophecy from Charlton Heston.

  22. And wheres Black Lives Matter now huh? Ain’t ya apes gonna defend that criminal as well now? He was brutally assaulted by white kids during driving, lets riot and destroy the whole city!!!111!!1

  23. I work for a bus company in the Chicago area about 2 weeks ago I had another bus driver tried to run my bus into on coming traffic. When I got back to the bus yard I talked to the GM she said she would take care of it. Nothing was done, so I called are parent company Student Transportation Inc. and there was no one that would talk to me. The problem is bus companies keep bad drivers. I installed a camera on my bus to get video to send to the local news and start a you tube channel to show bad drivers. Also my bus needs front tires I can’t get them replaced… Student Transportation Inc. Denis J. Gallagher, wont take my calls. I bet OSHA will……

  24. I work for a bus company in the Chicago area about 2 weeks ago I had another bus driver tried to run my bus into on coming traffic. When I got back to the bus yard I talked to the GM she said she would take care of it. Nothing was done, so I called are parent company Student Transportation Inc. and there was no one that would talk to me. The problem is bus companies keep bad drivers. I installed a camera on my bus to get video to send to the local news and start a you tube channel to show bad drivers. Also my bus needs front tires I can’t get them replaced… Student Transportation Inc. Denis J. Gallagher, wont take my calls. I bet OSHA will……

  25. What an ass-hole bus driver who killed and/or injured those poor kid’s and I they put his ass under the jail if the state TN does not have the death penalty!

  26. I would think Durham Bus Co. would do a better job screening potential drivers’ records. Driving while uninsured and previous at fault accidents should have had him removed from the stack of applicants.