ATLANTA — A pickup driver recklessly made his way through two Atlanta-area counties Wednesday as if he were playing bumper cars at an amusement park, leaving a trail of wrecked cars and a dead woman in his wake, according to police and witness reports.
Michael Snider, 70, from Stone Mountain, has been charged, and police haven’t released a motive.
One victim said the driver used his vehicle like a weapon over a roughly 15-mile route starting at the eastern edge of Atlanta and stretching into suburban Snellville, where a 69-year-old passenger was killed. Over about 45 minutes, Snider is suspected of causing five wrecks in DeKalb County and 10 more in Gwinnett County, some involving multiple vehicles.
The wreckage started about 7:35 p.m. Wednesday when a pickup rammed the rear bumper of a Nissan 350Z sports car at a traffic light at the end of an interstate exit ramp. Based on the time stamp of the police report, it appears to have been the first crash.
“Do you know who I am? I do whatever I want!” the pickup driver said, then got back in his truck and drove off, according to the police report.
Dennis Brown, 26, said he had just left his college class Wednesday evening and was heading home when he saw a gray pickup hit a car behind him and then head toward his vehicle.
“He looked like he was trying to hit me,” Brown said. “So I just slammed on the gas trying to avoid him, to get away from him.”
The truck followed as Brown accelerated and tried to swerve out of the way.
“I was looking at him through my rearview, and he looked possessed,” Brown said.
As they approached an intersection, Brown said he saw cars stopped at a red light and had to think fast to avoid hitting them. He had just turned hard, trying to get into a gas station parking lot, when the truck hit his SUV and sent it spinning out of control.
David Croft, 52, was sitting at that red light in his Ford Fusion and said he saw Brown’s vehicle barreling toward him with the truck in pursuit and then saw the pickup ram the SUV.
“I worked my wheel to the left and tried to get out of the way, and that’s the only thing that kept me from having a total T-bone impact to the side,” Croft said.
Manuel Johnson and his wife had stopped on the way home from work so she could have a bite to eat when he noticed a pickup come up close behind his Mercedes. He sped up, and the truck drifted back before accelerating to follow closely again.
“I told my wife, ‘That guy is awfully close to us,’ and as soon as I said that, he came up really fast and ran into the back of the car,” Johnson said.
The truck rammed into them four times before Johnson was able to swerve to the right and the truck went down the road and hit a little red Chevrolet, Johnson said.
“He was using his vehicle as if it was a weapon,” he said
After they checked on the people in the red car and talked to police, Johnson and his wife drove to the hospital and saw multiple banged-up vehicles along the way. Finally, they got to the end of the path of wreckage, where the Ford Super Duty pickup had veered off the road and hit the front of Johnboys Home Cooking restaurant in Snellville.
Minutes before, the truck had slammed into the back of gray Toyota Camry, causing it to hit the vehicle in front of it before it became wedged under a tractor-trailer stopped to its left, killing Mintiwab Woldeyhans, a passenger in the Camry, and leaving the car’s driver, 51-year-old Yeshihareg Abebe, in critical condition.
Police arrested Snider after his truck crashed into the restaurant. Police have said they believe alcohol was involved. They’ve charged Snider with vehicular homicide, serious injury by vehicle, DUI, reckless driving and following too closely. More charges are pending, police said.
Snider was released from a hospital and taken to the Gwinnett County Detention Center. He is being held without bond. Gwinnett County court officials say Snider has retained an attorney.