Driver, 19, charged in death of Gwinnett student
North Buckhead Driving and DUI School
A 19-year-old Norcross man has been charged with vehicular homicide in the crash early Sunday that killed a Meadowcreek High School junior and injured three other students on their way to an after-prom party.
Dejon R. Wideman was arrested and taken to the Gwinnett County jail Monday afternoon, according to Gwinnett County police.
Wideman was charged with causing the wreck on Steve Reynolds Boulevard that killed one of his passengers, Johlonda Lindsey, 16, police said. School officials confirmed that Wideman also is enrolled at the school.
“It’s been a very difficult day for everybody,” Sloan Roach, Gwinnett County schools spokeswoman, said Monday. She said a steady flow of students had gone in to speak with grief counselors at Meadowcreek.
Police said Wideman’s Chevrolet Trailblazer was traveling north on Steve Reynolds Boulevard when it veered to avoid a car in front of it, crossed the center line and was struck by a Ford Freestar traveling southbound driven by Freddie Banks, also a Meadowcreek student.
Lindsey was ejected from Wideman’s SUV and died at the scene, according to police.
Two other passengers in Wideman’s vehicle, sisters Colleena Walker, 15, and Kendrea Walker, 16, were hospitalized after the crash. Wideman and Banks were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Police said alcohol did not appear to be a factor, but noted that speed may have played a role.
Wideman, who was released from the hospital Monday, has been charged with one count each of vehicular homicide in the first degree, failure to maintain lane, driving on the wrong side of the road and reckless driving and three counts of serious injury by vehicle.
Meadowcreek’s track and field coach Kevin Crawley told Channel 2 Action News that Wideman is a former member of the track team.
By Sunday afternoon, the crash site had become an impromptu memorial to Lindsey, replete with a small wooden cross, dozens of roses, a Teddy Bear and a balloon that said “Thinking of You.” The scene also contained the leftover wreckage: a Chevy bumper, pieces of a rear-view mirror, a broken CD labeled by hand as “Emile’s Favorite Hits — Mixed Gospel.”
Giselle Lopez, a senior at Meadowcreek, knelt beside the white cross, gently touched the dirt beside it and let the tears come.
“We told each other everything,” said Lopez, carrying a box to collect donations for the girl’s family. “”She was so young. She wasn’t even a senior yet.”
Another friend, Keiona Henderson, said Lindsey loved competing on the school’s track team. Her nickname was “Lil Bit.” Lindsey cried when her relay team recently failed to qualify for the major state competition.
Lindsey was a team leader, who practiced hard but still could crack up her teammates with a quick line, Henderson said.
Henderson was to meet Lindsey at the Lawrenceville after-prom party. That night, she received a call from someone who had been traveling with Lindsey. When she answered, all she heard on the line was screaming and crying.
Classmates said the cars were filled with popular students and several of the school’s top athletes. They said they learned about, and then discussed, the wrecks through multiple Facebook and Twitter feeds Sunday morning.
Manuela Bryant brought her two sons to the crash scene. They knew Lindsay and wanted to pay respects. But she also saw a lesson in the wreckage.
“Cars are dangerous,” she said. “It’s not a toy.”
Blogger’s Note: As someone who watches the traffic related news all year, I can tell you that this type of tragedy is all too common and is connected to prom, homecoming, graduation, or some other teenage rite of passage.
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