Bond set for hit-and-run suspect in Jones county, victim speaks

August 12, 2016


JONES COUNTY, Miss. - The bond for Johnathon Pates, 30 of Sandersville, was set at $100,000 Friday. Pates allegedly fled the scene of a hit-and-run accident between his truck and a Jones county school bus resulting in the injury of a Northeast Jones high school student.


Authorities said the incident happened on Eastview Drive Thursday afternoon.


Superintendent Tommy Parker said, "After the person rear ended the bus, they chose to back up and go around the bus with the stop arm out, and students unloading off the bus."


Officials later found Pates in Sandersville after a witness called dispatch about a suspicious driver and truck.


Authorities said the witness told dispatch she saw Pates removing the vehicle's tags. Sheriff Alex Hodge said, "Deputies were able to apprehend him within 30 minutes, thankfully we had deputies to get there fairly quick."


Deputies said Pates hit Alia Cooper, 16, she said, "I thought my life was over, I was dazed and confused, I did not know what happened."


Cooper said she did not feel the truck, hit the back end of the bus. "I thought she (bus driver) was just steady driving off, I just flew into the glass door, and I was scared."


Cooper's mother said she is thankful Alia is alive. "There is no reason for anyone to pass a school bus if it is stopped, these are children, these are our children, these are children of our future" added Mari Cooper.


Pates was charged in violation of Nathan's Law, which holds drivers accountable for endangering the life of a child by passing a stopped school bus.


Lori McJohnson the mother of Nathan Key, 5, who was hit by a vehicle in 2009 said, "Parents need to understand that the school district nor the Jones county Sheriff's department does not take this lightly at all."


She added, "This is something that they hold people very accountable for doing."


Pates is the first person in Jones county in violation of Nathan's Law.


According to Mississippi Department of Education Nathan's Law states:

  • Requires motorists to stop at least 10 feet from a school bus when the bus is loading or unloading children. Motorists must not proceed until all children have crossed the street to or from the school bus, the flashing red lights are no longer activated, and the stop sign on the side of the bus is retracted.

  • Authorizes a charge of felony assault and a prison sentence of up to 20 years for motorists convicted of illegally passing a school bus that, in the process, results in injury or death.

  • Authorizes cameras be equipped on school bus stop arms to film perpetrators in the act.

  • Required the development of at least 10 questions relating to school bus safety on a driver's license test.

  • Established a School Bus Safety Task Force.

  • Prohibits school bus drivers from using cell phones, wireless communication devices, vehicle navigation systems or "personal digital assistants" while operating the bus, except in an emergency.

  • Increases the fine for passing a stopped school bus.









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