Records Show Complaints Against Tennessee School Bus Driver in Weeks Before Fatal Crash
The Tennessee school bus driver charged in the Nov. 21 crash that killed six elementary school students had multiple complaints lodged against him in the preceding days, according to Hamilton County Department of Education records obtained by PEOPLE.
Johnthony Walker, 24, has been charged with six counts of vehicular homicide, Chattanooga police spokeswoman Elissa Myzal tells PEOPLE. He is currently in Hamilton County Jail on $107,500 bond. He has not entered a plea and his first court appearance is Tuesday, Myzal says. Information about his attorney was not immediately available.
According to an email sent by Woodmore Elementary School Principal Brenda Adamson-Cothran on Nov. 16, five days before the crash, “Six students reported that the bus driver of the red bus (366) was swerving and purposely trying to cause them to fall today.”
The documents include two written reports by students about Walker. One student alleged, “He drives to[o] fast,” and it feels “like the bus is going to flip over.” The student accused Walker of stopping the bus intentionally when students were in the aisle, causing students to hit their heads.
Another student wrote, “The bus driver was doing sharp turns and he made me fly over the next seat[.] We need seat [belts].”
According to the documents, Walker had complained that the students were not listening to him, which prompted Carlis Shackelford, a Behavior Specialist with the school district, to board his bus on Nov. 2.
According to a memo written by Shackleford, “Driver stated that he did not care about the students and proceeded to tell the students he did not care about them.”
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The memo also states that Walker said “he has another job and driving this bus was just a part time job for him.”
Last week, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher A. Hart said in a news conference that Walker had taken on a second job at an Amazon center and that the agency is looking at whether fatigue perhaps played a role in the crash, reports the The Tennessean.
Another email written by Cothran, on Nov. 11, states, “On Tuesday, [Nov. 8], the driver, in my opinion, was driving way too fast when he pulled out of our school.”
Police allege Walker was speeding and driving recklessly when he lost control of the bus, according to an arrest warrant obtained by PEOPLE.
It was Walker’s second traffic collision while driving a school bus in as many months, according to state records.
His license was previously suspended for more than a year for failure to show proof of insurance, beginning in March 2014, and it was reinstated on March 28, 2015, a Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security spokeswoman confirmed to PEOPLE.
According to a toxicology test, Walker did not have drugs or alcohol in his system, according to a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman.
Walker had no criminal history in Tennessee prior to his Monday arrest, according to the TBI.