SUWANEE — Amadi Stephens is a good kid. The best, if you ask his football coach.
“We all love him to death,” Kevin Reach said Wednesday. “He’s been through so much already.”
On April 20, tragedy struck for the 17-year-old two-sport athlete at Collins Hill High School. Again.
Amadi and his father, Bruce, left a Subway restaurant that Saturday afternoon. The elder Stephens did not feel well and reportedly asked Amadi to drive the family’s Ford Explorer home. As they went south on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road, the car veered into the grass on the outside of the roadway.
Amadi, who did not have a driver’s license, overcorrected, then overcorrected again. The car flipped. Bruce Stephens was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown through the windshield. He was later pronounced dead at Gwinnett Medical Center.
It was all brought back to the surface this week.
On Wednesday — 109 days later — Amadi Stephens was formally charged with second-degree vehicular homicide in the crash that killed his best friend, the only parent he had left after cancer took his mother two years earlier.
He was caught off guard by the arrest, Reach said.
“He’s just a young kid, he doesn’t know how this kind of thing works,” Reach said. “He just knows he doesn’t have a mother or father right now.”
Gwinnett County police said they didn’t have a choice with the charges. While the extenuating circumstances will “likely be addressed in court,” the letter of the law necessitated an arrest, spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith said. It’s not unusual for accident investigations to take several months.
“We have some limited discretion,” Smith said, “but ultimately we have to charge him.”
Second-degree vehicular homicide is a misdemeanor. Stephens — a wide receiver and defensive back on Collins Hill’s football team, as well as a varsity basketball player — was also charged with no driver’s license and improper lane change. He spent less than 90 minutes in the Gwinnett County jail Tuesday before being released on $4,250 bond.
Smith declined to comment on what kind of role Stephens’ lack of a driver’s license might play in court.
More than 500 people attended Bruce Stephens’ funeral in April, Reach said. Frank Cox, pastor at North Metro First Baptist Church and team chaplain for Collins Hill football, delivered the eulogy.
After the accident, the CHHS Touchdown Club started an account to raise funds for Amadi and older siblings Jasmine and Kenton, both in their early 20s. Contributions can be made to “The Stephens Family Children” fund at the Delta Community Credit Union branch inside the Kroger on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road.
“The financial situation for these young people,” a Facebook post said, “is dire.”
As his team prepares for its Aug. 30 season opener against Central Gwinnett, Amadi Stephens has more than football on his mind. The future is uncertain, in many ways.
“He’s resilient,” Reach said. “He’s overcome so much. I’m just so proud of him and where he is after all this time … He’s the epitome of what you look for in a Collins Hill kid.”