Crime

A Columbus father accidentally ran over his toddler twice while texting, police say

Trenton Juwan Cook
Trenton Juwan Cook

A police officer told a tragic tale Tuesday of a Columbus man who allegedly was texting when he twice ran over his own child in his driveway.

Police Officer 1st Class Chad Daugherty was testifying during a preliminary hearing for Trenton Cook, 24, charged with second-degree homicide by vehicle and with failing to exercise due care, both misdemeanors.

Daugherty said Cook was coming home from work May 8 when his 2002 Ford Explorer ran out of gas on Victory Drive, and had to call a friend to help him before he could continue on to his home at 2438 Bond Ave., where he arrived around 2 p.m.

He saw his girlfriend’s children playing outside in the driveway, so he waited until they went inside before pulling in, the officer said. Then he pulled in, he felt a bump, as if he’d hit something, Daugherty said, so he put the car in reverse and backed up – and then felt the bump again.

He got out to look, and discovered he had run over his 22-month-old son Zakai A. Cook, whom he gathered in his arms and brought inside the home, where his girlfriend called 911. The toddler died later from a head injury in the emergency room of Piedmont Columbus Regional’s midtown campus.

Daugherty said police initially were mystified: The driveway was level and open; the sky was clear; and the child had been wearing a red T-shirt. Investigators could not figure out why Cook didn’t see the boy.

Then they checked his cell phone data through Verizon, and saw he had sent a text at 2:04 p.m., and the 911 call came in at 2:05 p.m.

Daugherty said he questioned Cook about this in late June, when Cook admitted he had used his phone while driving, but did not recall sending a text at that time.

Police concluded Cook must have been texting when he hit the child, the officer said, so Cook was arrested Friday morning at the Columbus Public Safety Center.

“He should have been a little more aware,” Daugherty told Recorder’s Court Judge Mike Joyner during Cook’s hearing. Still police found no evidence of intent, he added: “He was concerned for the child.”

Public defender Lindsey Brown told Joyner that what happened clearly was an accident, and that Cook has two other children and no criminal history of anything other than minor offenses. She noted also that Cook erroneously had been booked into the jail for felony vehicular homicide when he in fact was charged with a misdemeanor.

Joyner agreed, setting Cook’s bonds at $2,500 on the homicide charge and $300 for failing to show due care while driving.

“My condolences on the loss of your child,” the judge said.

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