A cop’s job can sometimes entail the most unenviable of tasks. Nathan Bradley, a trooper from Georgia State Patrol, can certainly attest to that, as he responded to a fatal car crash in October 2015. However, after traveling to the victims’ house, he decided to take their four children and drive away.
Donald and Crystal Howard, residents of Morgan County, Georgia, were parents to a quartet of kids named Justin, Amiah, Daimean and Trayvion. For close to a decade, Donald was a member of the United States Army, serving two tours, one in Afghanistan and another in Iraq. Following a knee injury, though, he was honorably discharged.
As for Crystal, she acted as a teacher to her four children, homeschooling them alongside her husband. In October 2015, the young parents prepared themselves for what looked to be a busy Halloween night. With each of the kids dressing up in their respective costumes, the pair needed to run to the store to buy some additional face paint and candy.
After grabbing what they needed, Donald, 33, and Crystal, 29, then made their way back to the house. Sadly, though, tragedy soon struck. While driving along a twisting road in their SUV, the pair ran off the roadway and hit a ditch. The car consequently went airborne before hitting a tree, killing them instantly.
Not long after the accident, Nathan Bradley of the Georgia State Patrol overheard the details on his radio. A few moments later, he discovered that he was fairly close to the wreck, and he responded to the call. Following his arrival, Bradley and his team then conducted their investigations, before seeking out Donald and Crystal’s loved ones.
After finding their address, Bradley traveled to the house along with a county deputy and the deputy coroner. However, the trio couldn’t prepare themselves for what they found, as the four kids answered the door in their Halloween costumes. “We were lost with words,” the trooper recalled on GoFundMe in November 2015.
“The deputy then asked the eldest boy if anybody was home, hoping for a ‘Yes,’ but the boy would unknowingly disappoint us,” Bradley continued. Justin, the eldest boy, explained, “My parents went to the store to get more face paint. They told us not to open the door for anybody, but they should be back soon.”
Heartbroken by what they had heard, the trio then searched for the children’s closest relative, keeping the crash to themselves. They eventually got in contact with the quartet’s grandmother, Stephanie Oliver, but she lived several hours away in Sarasota, Florida. At that point, Bradley made a quite incredible decision.
With Oliver on her way and the Department of Family and Child Services aware of the situation, the trooper couldn’t face what would happen next. “Not only would these children discover they lost both parents, but would spend their Halloween in a county jail until somebody could tend to them; it just wasn’t right,” Bradley wrote on GoFundMe.
“I pulled the deputy coroner to the side and told him that I was split,” Bradley continued. “I wanted to preserve these kids’ Halloween and the ones to come. I suggested that I’d care for them until their family was able to.” After receiving his approval, the trooper then invited the children to join him for a bite to eat.
When they spoke about waiting for their parents again, the trooper made another tough decision. “It was important to me that I would not lie to them,” Bradley wrote. “I acknowledged their statement and threw out that their grandmother would be meeting with us later that evening.”
Reassured, the quartet then joined Bradley in his car, before driving off to the local McDonald’s and Burger King. As the children ate their food, the trooper received a phone call from his corporal. “I have the best supervisors in the state, so I wasn’t surprised when he told me that he was bringing his wife and their son to meet us,” he wrote on GoFundMe.
After finishing their meals, Bradley and the children returned to the car, making their way to the trooper’s station. Over the course of their journey, he learned more about the quartet and their parents, with Justin touching on his father’s military career. When they eventually arrived, the kids were then given a tour of the station.
However, as the hours continued to pass by, the children were still unaware of the tragic news regarding Donald and Crystal, with Bradley waiting for their grandma’s arrival. However, several people traveled to the station to offer their assistance, bringing with them bags and buckets full of candy.
The children spent the night at the station, before Oliver arrived in the early hours of the morning. “We both agreed that it would be best for the children to finish sleeping and to be told of their parents’ fate the next day,” Bradley wrote. “We hoped that they would then relate the tragedy to November 1, rather than Halloween.”
Oliver planned to take the children back to Sarasota to live with her and her daughter, Sharlee Dismuke. However, the house wasn’t big enough, as Dismuke’s son and niece lived there as well. The issues for the family didn’t end there either, with funeral costs also reaching around $7,000.
With that in mind, Justin contacted Bradley to update him on the situation, which prompted the trooper to act. He set up a GoFundMe page on November 3, 2015, aiming to raise the required money for Donald and Crystal’s funeral. However, surely he couldn’t have envisioned what happened next.
Some 24 hours after setting it up, Bradley’s GoFundMe page had already earned a huge $33,000 in donations. But, before long, the total had reached over $500,000, with that money being kept in a trust fund. Meanwhile, Dismuke suggested that her mother could buy a bigger property with some of the funds, making things a little easier.
On November 13, 2015, Donald and Crystal were laid to rest in Sarasota, with their children joined by family and friends at the service. The coffins had been adorned with flowers, while a cousin offered some words about the kids to the room. However, she reserved special praise for Bradley’s actions.
“I want to thank the officer that came and took my cousins, and still allowed my cousins to enjoy their Halloween on that horrible night,” she said. Indeed, Bradley’s compassion won’t be forgotten anytime soon by the Howard family. Thanks to some quick thinking, he not only shielded those children from a horrible tragedy, but he also ensured them a brighter future.