Damion Burnell
Photo: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office
Photo: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office

Felon fleeing traffic stop killed in Gwinnett car crash

A man convicted in 2012 of an attempted robbery that was foiled by a 10-year-old boy was killed in a car crash early Tuesday in Gwinnett County.

Damion Lee Burnell, 27, died in a wreck after fleeing a traffic stop, Snellville police said. Court records indicate the man was on probation at the time. The accident happened about 2:15 a.m., according to an incident report obtained by AJC.com. 

RELATED: 2nd suspect named in burglary foiled by 10-year-old

An officer was positioned at Odum Street facing Ga. 10 when he saw a gray Honda Civic with a taillight out, the report said. The officer stopped the car on Wisteria Drive. Officers later identified the driver as Burnell after a state-issued identification card was found in a fanny pack he was wearing, the report said. 

“While speaking to the driver, I observed the driver’s eyes to be glossy,” the officer wrote in the report. “The driver’s eyes appeared droopy and he appeared to be impaired.” 

The officer asked for Burnell’s license, and the man opened the arm rest, looked inside and closed the arm rest without taking out his license, the officer said. 

“At this time, I observed the driver’s right hand to be clinched closed as if he was holding something,” the officer said. 

Burnell didn’t provide the officer with a license and said the car belonged to his mother. The officer asked Burnell to write his name on a piece of paper and watched as the man wrote with a fist still closed around the object. The officer asked the man what was in his hand. 

“The driver opened his right hand in which a white plastic wrap fell from his hand and landed next to his right leg on the driver’s seat,” the officer said. “The white plastic wrap size and appearance appeared that it contained a narcotic substance due to my knowledge, training and experience,” the officer said. 

The officer told Burnell to hand over the bag multiple times, but he did not comply, according to the report. Then, after Burnell finally handed over the bag, the officer said he drove off at about 80 mph. 

The driver turned onto North Road and ran a red light, the report said. The man lost control and left the roadway near Collinswood Road and died as a result of his injuries, the officer said. 

Burnell had two active warrants for burglary and an active warrant for theft by taking at the time of the fatal accident, police said.

He had been booked into the Gwinnett jail multiple times on burglary and theft charges, including once related to a 2012 burglary in which a boy was home alone at the time. 

Burnell was arrested in May 2013, nearly 10 months after Gwinnett police obtained a warrant claiming he was connected to the incident. The attempted robbery happened at a home on Halcyon Way in Lawrenceville on July 27, 2012, AJC.com previously reported. The child hid under a bed and called 911 during the incident. 

Soon after the attempted robbery, police stopped Burnell walking on a nearby street, but released him due to lack of evidence, a spokesman told AJC.com at the time. A warrant was taken out for Burnell’s arrest after an anonymous tipster told police he was friends with another person who was arrested in connection with that crime. 

Burnell was sentenced to three years in jail and seven years of probation after pleading guilty to first-degree burglary. 

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