It was just before 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 19, 2010, when his life turned upside down in a head-on crash similar to several that have occurred around metro Atlanta in recent weeks.
On that morning, Crider, who has been on the Cobb force since 1998, got a report from Cherokee County Police about a suspected impaired driver in a silver Honda Civic. Cherokee Police had stopped the driver — later identified as Christopher Scott Richards of Canton — in a parking lot near Sixes Road off Interstate 575, but police say he refused to get out of his car and then sped off, eventually heading south on I-575 heading into Cobb.
Crider and other Cobb officers immediately headed north on I-575. But Crider recalled soon hearing that the suspect had crossed the grassy median and was driving south in the northbound lanes near Barrett Parkway.
Within about a second of hearing this, the driver in front of Crider’s patrol car moved to the right and then, Crider recalled, Richards was barreling toward him in the northbound emergency lane of I-575.
“I hit the brakes, and I went from about 75 miles per hour to about 16 or 17 miles per hour. That’s when the crash data system in the car quit recording,” Crider said.
Cobb crash-scene investigators weren’t able to determine exactly how fast Richards was driving when he collided with Crider, but there was no evidence he hit his brakes, Crider said.
“I remember it all because I didn’t lose consciousness,” Crider said. “When I hit the brakes, everything in the car: dust, dirt, lint … moved forward in slow motion until we hit, and when we hit, everything went back to real speed. It sounds funny, but I can remember seeing out of the corner of my eyes everything in the car: me mashing the brake pedal and everything just floating forward. When we had impact, everything in that car went 1,000 miles per hour.”
Crider was flown to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, where he stayed for 10 days before returning to his home in his native Gordon County, about 50 miles northwest of Marietta, for 19 months of recovery.
“(My femur) was pushed out the back of the hip socket and broke the hip socket in three places,” he said. He endured multiple surgeries, including on his back in April 2011, knee surgery that August and a total hip replacement in November.
Richards, meanwhile, was flown to Atlanta Medical Center after the accident, where he spent 11 days. Police did not release details of his injuries. He was arrested and taken to Cobb Jail upon his release from the hospital on June 30, 2010.
On April 13, 2012, Richards, now 36, pleaded guilty before Cobb Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs to charges of serious injury by vehicle; possession of drugs including marijuana; and fleeing and eluding a police officer. He was sentenced to serve 12 years in prison, followed by at least five years on probation.
Richards is serving his sentence at the state prison in Coffee County, in south Georgia. His court-appointed attorney, Pete Odom of Atlanta, declined to comment for this story.
Richards also faces additional charges in Cherokee County stemming from the same incident. Just weeks ago, a grand jury in that county indicted him on charges of eluding police, driving under the influence, speeding, reckless driving and obstruction. Cherokee District Attorney Garry Moss said Richards will be arraigned this fall.
Crider said he believes the sentence Richards is serving is fair, and he holds no ill will against him.
“If it straightens his life out, more power to him,” he said.
About six weeks after the crash, Crider appeared at a fund-raiser held in his honor at Fuddrucker’s in Kennesaw and thanked his friends and supporters. In March 2011, Crider received the Blue Star Award from Cobb Police Chief John Houser during the department’s annual honors ceremony.
Crider did return to ‘light duty’ work in January, but it wasn’t until a month ago, Aug. 6, that he was allowed to resume his regular police duties full time.
“When the doctors cleared me, I got to go back and do my thing,” he said.
Crider, now 46, said that while some of his relatives weren’t overjoyed at his return to police work, they knew it was in his blood.
“My brother was not surprised I wanted to keep doing this,” he said. “And my son knew that was my goal all along.”
After re-qualifying on the gun range, Crider said he wasn’t so nervous about getting back to the streets as he was anxious about technological changes his fellow officers were now using.
“We had a new computer system — the way we do reports, the way we do wrecks — put in right before I had the wreck, so I was two years behind the power surge,” he said. “I was a little apprehensive there.”