A man has been sentenced to five years in prison for killing a Cobb County schools crossing guard with his car in late November.
Lamonte Whitaker, of Lithonia, spoke through tears in court Monday apologizing to the family of Edna Umeh, according to Cobb district attorney’s office spokeswoman Kim Isaza.
Isaza said Whitaker, 38, claimed he was asleep when he hit 64-year-old Umeh outside Lindley Middle School in Mableton. Some students saw the collision.
As reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, police and a witness said Whitaker swerved around stopped traffic and into the center turn lane, which is where he hit Umeh. The speed limit was 25 mph, but investigators found he was going between 45 and 51 mph.
The father of four said in court that he worked as a taxi driver and an Uber driver and was sleepy, according to Isaza.
While arguing for the maximum sentence of 15 years, prosecutor Patricia Hull refuted Whitaker’s claim of being asleep.
“He even made a point to say he was not sleepy. He said she jumped in front of his car,” Hull said.
During sentencing, Judge J. Stephen Schuster said: “She put herself out there in a difficult situation, to protect that neighborhood and those children. She gave her life for those children.”
Umeh’s family pushed to improve road safety, and shortly after, the county announced a “corridor safety audit” in the area of the school on Veterans Memorial Highway. That stretch of Mableton road is in a school zone, but there are no lights or crosswalks at the school entrance.
In May, the county installed radar signs in the area that let drivers know how fast they are going.
Whitaker will have 10 years of supervised release when he is finished with five years of prison. As part of his sentence, Whitaker will never have a license again.
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