Woodmore bus driver faces additional charges after prosecutors pledge to bring more counts

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 11/29/16. Johnthony Walker, the bus driver charged in the school bus crash on Talley Road that left six children dead and others injured on November 21, makes his first appearance in Judge Lila Statom's courtroom on Tuesday, November 29, 2016.

Johnthony Walker, the bus driver charged in the deaths of six Woodmore Elementary School students, faces 21 new criminal charges after prosecutors returned to the grand jury Tuesday to present more evidence in his case.

Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston announced last week he would seek more charges against Walker, who already faced multiple counts of vehicular homicide, reckless aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and use of a portable electronic device by a school bus driver in connection with the Nov. 21 crash on Talley Road.

Prosecutors filed another 14 counts of reckless aggravated assault and seven counts of assault Wednesday after securing indictments from grand jurors, Pinkston's spokeswoman, Melydia Clewell, said.

All told, Walker faces 34 charges now.

Police say Walker, 24, was speeding Nov. 21 when he overcorrected on Talley Road, swerved into a telephone pole and wrapped the school bus around a tree with 37 Woodmore Elementary children onboard. Six died as a result and dozens more were injured.

Walker was first charged with five counts of vehicular homicide, one count of reckless endangerment and one count of reckless driving as authorities scrambled to gather accurate medical information during the emotionally scarring days after the crash. After grand jurors indicted Walker on additional crimes in March, some Woodmore families questioned why the 24-year-old was only charged for what appeared to be 10 children during a meeting at the Brainerd school in May.

"You have to have certain injuries to be charged," Pinkston explained at the time. "So that's what we're trying to figure out from everybody."

Prosecutors can seek additional charges against a defendant at any point before a trial.

Pinkston announced he would request them against Walker, who is being held in Hamilton County Jail, during a hearing last week about whether the 24-year-old is eligible for an alternative sentence. Known as "diversion," the program allows first-time offenders to get their cases dismissed and erased if they complete probation, community service, or some other type of treatment.

Walker's defense attorney, Amanda Dunn, declined to comment on Wednesday's additional charges but said she still plans to file a diversion application.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.