A Gwinnett County master police officer was demoted and prohibited from operating a patrol car after an internal investigation showed he had a video playing in his car before he caused a serious accident that sent a woman to the hospital and shut down much of Interstate 85 north this past spring.
Gwinnett Police Department documents show Todd Ramsey was demoted to the rank of police officer senior on Sept. 9. A disciplinary letter shows he was driving home after completing his shift April 1 and appeared to have been distracted when he rear-ended a Kia Sorento on I-85, setting off a chain of events that involved two additional vehicles.
“While traveling home, you became distracted and caused a collision involving four vehicles,” then-Police chief Butch Ayers said in the letter. “One of the drivers was critically injured and, as a result of her injuries, will require extensive lifelong medical treatment and life care. You were also severely injured in this collision.
“After a thorough investigation by the GCPD Accident Investigation Unit, you were found to be at fault for following too closely. The investigation also reveled that you were not wearing your seatbelt as required.”
Ayers’ letter to Ramsey shows this is not the first time the officer has been found to be responsible for an accident in his patrol vehicle. Ayers said in the letter that the officer has been involved in eight accidents, where he was deemed to be at fault, since he joined the force in 1996.
Punishments that Ramsey received for the various accidents include three one-day suspensions, three instances of verbal document counseling, one written reprimand and a loss of good driving record.
The accident that prompted Ramsey’s demotion happened near Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road.
The report shows Ramsey’s patrol car hit the Sorento then collided, first, with another vehicle in front of it and then with a median wall. The patrol car veered off, came to a stop on an incline and then rolled backward into the front of a pickup truck.
Ramsey and Hoschton resident Sarah Michelle Wood, who was driving the Sorento, were taken to Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville to be treated for their injuries.
Lawrenceville resident Yosha Antoinea Burnside, who was driving the vehicle Wood hit after Ramsey rear ended her vehicle, was treated at the scene for injuries but not taken to the hospital. Carnesville resident James Howard Carolus, who was driving the truck that Ramsey’s patrol car rolled backwards into, did not report any injuries to officials.
The internal investigation report shows Ramsey told a fellow officer who responded to the accident that he had been looking at his Mobile Data Terminal before the accident, but then either got something in his eye or had an issue with his contact lens.
“Once he fixed the problem, he looked up and impacted the rear of (the Sorento),” the investigation report states.
The following day, police Maj. J. Rozier went to see Ramsey in the hospital to talk to him about what happened in the lead-up to the accident. That’s when investigators learned about a YouTube video which Ramsey had been watching in a QuikTrip parking lot before the accident.
“Once Officer Ramsey left the QuikTrip and was driving, the video was still playing in the background,” the report states. “Officer Ramsey stated he then attempted to close or minimize the YouTube video and he had an issue with his contact lens. After he fixed the issue, he looked up and the collision occurred.”
A check of vehicle data later determined Ramsey’s patrol car was traveling at 68 mph before it hit the Sorento. It also indicated the brakes were not used to stop the vehicle and that the officer was not wearing his seatbelt when the accident occurred.
The report shows investigators found Ramsey had performed a YouTube video search for videos pertaining to the game “Grand Theft Auto.”
Searches of the data usage and web history of Ramsey’s Mobile Data Terminal showed it was “hemmering,” which means it was using large amounts of internet data. Those searches also revealed Ramsey had multiple browsers open to YouTube, other video sharing websites and web searches.
“It is not clear what was being viewed on (Ramsey’s) Mobile Data Terminal at the time of the collision,” the investigative report states. “(Ramsey) was found at fault for the collision for following too closely.”