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.

True bill of indictment


The man arrested in connection with the Woodmore Elementary School bus crash that killed six children faces more charges after being indicted Wednesday by a Hamilton County grand jury.

Johnthony Walker, 24, was indicted on six counts of vehicular homicide, four counts of reckless aggravated assault, one count of reckless endangerment, one count of reckless driving and one count of use of a portable electronic device by a school bus driver.

He will be arraigned March 24 before Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole.

Defense attorney Amanda Dunn said Monday during a hearing to freeze a dozen civil lawsuits against Walker that prosecutors planned to present her client's case to the grand jury this week. On Wednesday, she declined to comment on the indictment.

Authorities say Walker was speeding down Talley Road in Brainerd on Nov. 21 when he swerved into a tree with 37 Woodmore Elementary students onboard, killing six children and injuring several more. Walker, who also worked at Amazon, had no drugs or alcohol in his system at the time, police said.

They filed five counts of vehicular homicide, one count of reckless endangerment and one count of reckless driving against Walker in Hamilton County General Sessions Court. About three weeks later, Judge Lila Statom sent those charges to a grand jury.

Grand jury proceedings in Hamilton County are secret, so it's unclear how citizens came to their decision. Typically, a prosecutor presents the facts of a case to grand jurors, who decide among themselves whether the charges are valid enough to return an indictment, a formal outline of the accusations against a defendant that sets the case in motion in Criminal Court.

Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston presented Walker's case, his spokeswoman, Melydia Clewell, wrote in an email. Prosecutors often cannot comment on ongoing cases.

But one of the new charges coming out of the grand jury — use of a portable electronic device — could be traced back to Walker's Dec. 15 preliminary hearing. Dunn said video footage taken inside the bus showed Walker with his phone out while the bus was stationary. When children boarded, he put it away, she said. Officer Joe Warren, who responded to the scene Nov. 21, countered that the phone just went out of view — it wasn't clear if Walker had actually put it away.

Walker, who had no previous criminal history in Hamilton County Criminal Court, remains in custody, records show. His attorney can begin filing motions to fight the charges now that he's passed through the grand jury.

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