CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — Seventy-two hours after a Chesterfield school bus driver allegedly led police on a multijurisdictional chase while under the influence of alcohol, the school system has yet to detail further specifics into the incident.
According to police, one student went to the hospital Friday for an evaluation after 50-year-old Janet B. Ellis was stopped in the school bus she was driving. The bus was involved in a Richmond hit and run on Leigh Street, taking out a utility pole.
“The driver rolled right over it and kept on going,” an eyewitness recalled after the incident Friday.
Once officers saw the bus driving on Huguenot Road toward Midlothian Turnpike, they tried to pull the driver over but she drove off before pulling to a side street and stopping.
After Ellis was arrested police said she kicked an officer and refused a breathalyzer test at the jail. Police received a search warrant to draw her blood to check her blood alcohol content, yet Ellis refused.
“The facts that we don’t know are going to be very important,” 8News Legal Analyst Russ Stone said.
Aside from the DWI, Ellis was also charged with having an open container, refusing a sobriety test, and assaulting a police officer. She was also charged with obstruction and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle
“The one that is probably the most serious is the assault on a police officer because that is a felony charge,” Stone said.
8News discovered the driver has a history in the courts. Ellis faced a 2020 charge of failure to stop at the scene of an accident. According to court records, she paid a fine for that misdemeanor.
One year later, she was charged with public intoxication, but online court records are unclear if or how that case ended.
While there’s no immediate proof that Chesterfield Public Schools overlooked Ellis’ history with the law, Stone said any questions about whether the district bears any responsibility would not “come up in the criminal case. But that could be the subject of a civil suit later on down the road, particularly if one of the kids was injured.“
The Chesterfield Schools application for bus driver positions mentions background investigations with the FBI, state police and child protective services.
Correction 5/3/22: We originally reported that Chesterfield police did not provide new information regarding this incident prior to our report. That is incorrect. We received an email from the police on Monday, May 2. The story has been updated to include the new information.