RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–On June 1, Mitch Johnson was in an accident that claimed the life of his best friend Antonio Shands, right before high school graduation. Johnson spoke exclusively with CBS 6 news about his recovery.
For the first time in weeks Mitch Johnson is able to move about his South Richmond home.
Johnson was the passenger in a Chevy Malibu filled with teens that collided with a pick-up truck at the intersection of Cherokee and Old Westham Roads. Huguenot High School senior Shands died in that crash, pronounced dead at the scene of the 10:33 a.m.
Johnson spent three days in the hospital and suffered a broken vertebrae and injuries to his eyes. “I had my eyes closed from 11 am until 8 pm because glass went in m eyes. I couldn’t open them at all,” he said.
Though Johnson couldn’t physically see—the picture of the accident was on constant replay in his head.
He told CBS 6 he remembers the moment a pick-up truck hit them. Police said the teens ran a stop sign, a sign that was partially covered by tree branches that have since been trimmed.
Johnson said he also thinks constantly about his friend that died. “Oh my God.”
“ I’m so very sorry,” said Johnson. “ I got out of the car to help, but the police told me I shouldn’t.”
“Oh, man, it’s very tough,” he added.
Johnson disputed claims that he and the driver of the car were skipping school. He told us they were headed back to Huguenot High when they saw some friends walking.
He said that when they picked up their friends, something was immediately brought to his attention. He claimed a Richmond truancy officer was following them.
“They said they were being chased by truancy so the guys we picked up said they wanted to go home and we were taking them home,” said Johnson. “ I think we were all kind of nervous.”
Johnson said the officer followed them all the way, and was behind them when they were hit.
“Then they got out and called police and ambulance,” he said.
Our CBS 6 cameras captured video of the truancy officer’s car being towed away that day—along with the two crashed vehicles. A Freedom of Information request submitted by CBS 6 confirmed the car was being driven by a city truancy officer.
However, a Richmond police spokesperson said the truancy officer was not involved in the crash.
“The vehicle the teens were riding in was not being pursued or chased” explained Karla Peters. A city spokesperson, Mike Wallace told CBS 6 that the truancy driver’s car was towed away from the crash scene.
He explained that the stress management team assessed the truancy officer and determined the man was too upset to drive after witnessing the fatal accident.
The Richmond Police report obtained by CBS 6 shows charges are pending for the teen driver in the crash. The Commonwealth’s Attorney is still investigating.
In the meantime, Johnson and his mom are now trying to figure out how they’ll pay the steep medical bills that are coming in. He said he’s hopeful that all of his friends injured in the crash will recover soon.
Johnson said he’ll be able to remove his neck brace in the next week and he’s looking forward in the coming months to rebuild his strength.
He said he’ll need that when he returns to school and hopefully returns to his passion—the game of soccer.