GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — A distracted driver doing nearly 70 miles per hour in stop-and-go rush hour traffic on Interstate 85 crashed into a woman’s car, nearly killing her.
That distracted driver was a Gwinnett County police officer and a Grand Theft Auto video was playing in his car at the time.
“How you holding up, boss?” asked an officer on police body camera video.
Gwinnett County police Officer Todd Ramsey said in the moments after the crash on I-85. he didn’t even know who he hit.
“Do you know what car it is? He says he doesn’t know,” said an officer.
Sarah Wood doesn’t remember much about the crash either, but it changed her life forever.
“I was sitting in traffic and pretty much next thing I knew, I woke up in the hospital. I don’t remember anything after that,” Wood said.
"You don't even remember the crash?" asked Channel 2 Investigative reporter Justin Gray.
“No,” Wood replied
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Wood was born deaf.
Channel 2 Action News spoke to her for this story through an interpreter.
She was only going 6 miles per hour in rush hour traffic April 1. Ramsey was going 68 miles per hour when he rear-ended her.
The impact of the crash was so severe that personal items from Wood’s trunk ended up inside the police cruiser.
“I don’t believe there was any attempt to stop or swerve because he didn’t see her because he wasn’t looking,” said Wood’s attorney, Susan Witt.
“He was looking somewhere else?” Gray asked.
“He was looking somewhere else,” Witt replied.
What was Ramsey looking at?
Channel 2 Action News filed an open records request for the internal Gwinnett County police investigation into the crash to find out.
It shows Ramsey had multiple browser screens open on his onboard computer terminal, pulling a large amount of data.
It states that before getting on the highway, Ramsey was sitting and watching a Grand Theft Auto video and that video was still playing at the time of the crash.
Ramsey told investigators he had a problem with his eye or contact.
“That terminal in the vehicle certainly not intended for watching Grand Theft Auto videos?” Gray asked.
“Certainly not,” Witt replied. “Anybody who’s driving on the road in Gwinnett County and with Gwinnett County police officers should be concerned."
Wood was in a coma for four weeks after the accident. Because of the traumatic brain injury she suffered, she can no longer work, and her hearing aids cause her pain.
The only citation issued to Ramsey was for following too closely.
"Do you think this would have been handled different if he wasn't a police officer?" Gray asked.
"Well, absolutely," Witt answered.
Channel 2 Action News wanted to ask Gwinnett County police why Ramsey didn't face any other charges, but they would not talk to us, citing a pending claim and potential litigation.
We filed an open records request for his disciplinary records and found this was Ramsey’s eighth at-fault accident.
“I don’t want to call this an accident. This wasn’t an accident; this was a serious collision that should of and could have been avoided,” Witt said.
In September, nearly six months after the crash, Ramsey was demoted from master police officer to police officer senior.
He was permanently assigned to the Tele-Serve Unit and “prohibited from driving or operating a Gwinnett County vehicle for any reason.”
Wood doesn’t think that is enough. Her medical bills are more than $500,000 and growing. Her attorney is currently in settlement talks with the county.
But she’s worried that other officers could also be distracted behind the wheel.
“You know I don’t want anybody else to get hurt,” Wood said.
“I don’t understand why these officers should be exempt from adhering to the rules that apply to everyone else,” Witt said.
Ramsey also was not wearing his seatbelt and appeared to be dipping at the time of the accident. Both are against department policy.
Gwinnett County police didn’t respond to our questions about what procedures are in place to monitor officer use of their onboard computer terminals and why they did not turn over this accident investigation to Georgia State Patrol, which was on scene.
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