COLLEGE PARK, Ga. — A man accused of crashing into a car and killing a grandmother and her two grandkids while they were on their way to church in 2016 was arraigned on Thursday, six years after the tragedy.
Diontre Tigner, who was 16 at the time of the incident, faces charges of felony murder, reckless driving and hit-and-run, among others.
Authorities say Tigner slammed into the car being driven by 75-year-old Dorothy Wright, with her 12-year-old grandson Cameron Costner and her 6-year-old granddaughter Layla Partridge as passengers, on Jan. 31, 2016.
For nearly six years following their deaths the children's mother and daughter of Wright, Joi Partridge, begged the driver who ran off to come forward.
A College Park Police Department report shows Tigner was finally taken into custody by officers on the evening of Dec. 23.
In 2019 the mother said she was still heartbroken.
"I miss them every day," she said. She described her son as a ball of joy and her daughter as a firecracker.
Partridge told her attorneys she was overjoyed Tigner was finally caught.
Shortly after the incident, the family filed a lawsuit against the cities of Atlanta and College Park.
The family's lawyers characterized the chase as a "reckless high-speed pursuit."
Their suit claims College Park officers pursued the alleged stolen car "despite there being no report of the suspect possessing a weapon, nor any allegation of violence" and that in "chasing this non-violent, unarmed teenage car thief" the officers "acted with breathtaking recklessness: speeding over twice the posted limit, veering into oncoming lanes of traffic, through traffic lights and intersections and into a residential neighborhood."
The lawsuit is still pending.
Their case was one of several that sparked debates about the appropriateness of police chases and the collateral damage they could cause. The Atlanta Police Department began a zero-chase policy early in 2020, though about a year later they walked back some of those policy changes.
The timeline of how it took so long to bring Tigner into custody is unclear. The College Park police report indicates he was on probation for an offense in Cobb County, but it's not clear when that occurred.
"The police were on-scene at the time of impact," an attorney for the family said in 2019. "And this guy literally got out of the Suburban and walked away - literally walked away - and an entire generation of a family has been wiped out."
According to the report, Tigner was arrested after Atlanta Police officers made contact with his girlfriend, confirmed with her where he lived and then arrested him at his apartment in Atlanta's Almond Park neighborhood.
Fulton County Jail records indicate all the charges Tigner faces stem from the 2016 wreck. He was not apprehended at the time after fleeing the scene of the wreck, which ended following a chase of an allegedly stolen Chevy Suburban.
According to the College Park Police account, officers began chasing the car just after 9 a.m. on the morning of Jan. 31, 2016, responding to a reported auto theft at the Westin Hotel near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Police said at the time they attempted to pull the driver over, but he didn't stop. He was then chased to the intersection of South Gordon Street and Rogers Avenue, where the crash occurred.
"My cousin lost her whole family in one car… her mother and her two children - gone. Just like that," LaTaucha Harris, Wright's niece, said after the tragedy. "They loved their grandmother. She was their everything, and they were her everything."