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Trooper fired after fatal crash had history of wrecks

By Mike Morris - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution



The now-fired Georgia State Patrol trooper involved in the New Year's Eve crash that killed the wife of Braves trainer Jeff Porter had a history of wrecks, Channel 2 Action News reported.

Trooper 1st Class Donald Crozier, who was terrminated Friday, released a statement Saturday expressing regret for the Dec. 31 fatal accident but did not mention any prior incidents. He also promised to cooperate with the current investigation.

Col. Mark W. McDonough, commissioner of the state Department of Public Safety, said the investigation into the Dec. 31 wreck in downtown Atlanta continued. 

"Immediately following the crash, I requested the resources of the Georgia State Patrol's Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team, the department's Special Investigations Division, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Fulton County District Attorney's office in the follow-up investigations," McDonough said in a statement.

"The investigations are continuing and the findings from each will be presented to [Fulton County] District Attorney Paul Howard for his consideration of charges when the investigations are concluded," he continued. "Although this personnel action has been taken, this will in no way change the focus of the investigations."

In his statement Saturday released by his attorney, Crozier said he would continue to cooperate with the investigation.

“I am still suffering emotionally and physically as a result of the accident, but it is nothing compared to what the Porter family is going through," the former trooper said. "I am so sorry for their loss and I think of them and pray for them every day."

According to investigative reports obtained by Channel 2, on Feb. 20, 2011, Crozier was involved in his fourth "at fault" crash since November 2008 where disciplinary action was taken. The review board determined that Crozier, who had just turned on his emergency lights and was looking down to activate the siren, failed to yield the right of way to a vehicle making a left turn in front of him at the intersection of H.E. Holmes Drive and Burton Road. He was attempting to stop a stolen vehicle.

"Fortunately, no one was injured. It is this type of behavior that must be corrected," his supervisor stated in the document.

On New Year's Eve, Kathy Porter was a passenger in the Ford Expedition being driven by her husband, Jeff. The Ford was struck by Crozier's Dodge Charger patrol car at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Memorial Drive. Kathy Porter died; her husband, the couple's son, David, and a third passenger were injured.

The Porters were on their way to the Chick-fil-A Bowl when the crash happened just after 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

The State Patrol said Crozier was speeding to assist in the chase of a motorcyclist on nearby I-20 when the wreck happened.

The State Patrol on Friday released the initial crash report on the wreck.

In the report, the investigating trooper says that, according to statements from Jeff Porter and from witnesses at the scene, Crozier "failed to use due regard when traveling through the intersection on a red traffic signal."

The report also states that, according to witnesses, Crozier, who was westbound on Memorial Drive, "traveled around other vehicles that were stopped on Memorial Drive for the red signal prior to making impact" with Porter's SUV, which was northbound on Capitol Avenue.

One witness told investigators that Crozier's vehicle "approached the intersection at a high rate of speed with its lights on" and "did not slow."

While the report state's that Crozier's vehicle had "all of its emergency equipment activated," witnesses have told the AJC that the trooper's blue lights were flashing, but that they heard no siren.

Crozier, 40, joined the State Patrol as a radio operator in 1997. He graduated from trooper school in January 2002. His statement Saturday said he had been in law enforcement for 17 years, first as a sheriff's deputy in Randolph County before joining the state patrol.

-- Staff writer Christopher Seward, dispatch editor Angel K. Brooks and staff writer Alexis Stevens contributed to this article.

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