NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The teenage driver charged in the death of a Metro police officer on the Fourth of July last year has pleaded guilty in the Davidson County Criminal Court to all charges including vehicular homicide.
With her attorney S.S. Richards, 18-year-old Jayona Brown entered the guilty plea in Judge Steve Dozier's courtroom, more than three months after a juvenile court judge ruled she would be charged as an adult based on the evidence during the transfer hearing and previous record.
Brown's parents were in attendance as well as Officer Anderson's mother, fiancé and fiancé’s mother.
Brown, who was 17 years old at the time, was charged with vehicular homicide, aggravated assault, evading arrest and driving on a suspended license after hitting and killing Officer John Anderson at the intersection of Woodland Street and Interstate Drive.
Investigators said Brown was behind the wheel of a Ford Fusion when she was fleeing from police for a possible traffic top and sped through the flashing red lights at the intersection. She crashed into Ofc. Anderson's patrol cruiser and slammed it into a light pole. Anderson was traveling from Woodland Street on his way to assist another officer on the interstate.
In her transfer hearing in February, Brown's former attorney Michie Gibson argued both parties were at fault and suggested Anderson would still be alive if he did not violate police policy. Electronic data from Anderson’s car showed he was traveling at 71 mph at the point of impact, and 85 mph beforehand. Metro policy allows officers to go only 10 mph over the posted speed limit, which was 45 on Woodland Street.
"All this would have been avoided if there wasn’t an initial fleeing from law enforcement," FOP President James Smallwood told NewsChannel 5 after the plea hearing. "Don’t do those kind of things when the police are involved don’t run from them, stop, comply there’s no reason to put everybody at risk just to get away just for a minor traffic infraction."
Brown, who also testified in February, never denied hitting Anderson and asked his family for forgiveness. Both an investigator and Brown's passenger, who suffered a brain injury, said she had marijuana prior to the incident.
Brown had been in custody on a $100,000 bond.
Her sentencing date was scheduled for August 27 at 1 p.m. She could face three to six years each for the aggravated assault charges and vehicular homicide charges, two to four years for evading arrest and six months for driving with a suspended license.
Brown's attorney, S.S. Richards released the following statement after the hearing:
"We know that there are strong opinions surrounding this case. A wide range of emotions from anger and sadness to outrage, which is to be expected. Any time there is a loss of life, especially unexpectedly. There are no winners; there are everlasting affects on entire families.
Ms. Brown understands and has accepted responsibility of her role in the car crash that resulted in the death of Officer John Anderson bringing closure by pleading guilty to the charges arising out of the July 4th 2019 incident. Often the public accepts the narrative driven by an incomplete set of facts, one that vilifies a person based on a lack of judgment. We simply ask that media and news outlets to remain objective and allow our judicial system to do what is fair and equitable given the circumstances. We know that the family is still mourning and grieving the loss of their loved one and we want to continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time."
The Metro Nashville Police Department honored Anderson on the recent Fourth of July with a video on social media and the hashtag #NeverForget.
"He was a cop’s cop. He was here to serve and certainly, we want to make sure we remember him that way and honor his memory," said Smallwood.