Family remembers toddler who died in hit-and-run crash

DECATUR -- 19-month old Zyonne Cooper died in a hit-and-run crash just after midnight Thursday morning. The man police say was behind the wheel is now in custody.

Police arrested a 24-year old man Sunday morning. He'll be charged in connection with the case. Detectives arrested the man at a house in the 2100-block of East Cantrell. His SUV matched the one described as leaving the scene of the crash.

Police aren't releasing the name of the suspect until he's formally charged. But Zyonne's family said the man told authorities he was sorry this happened. And they said they accept his apology even though that won't bring back their little boy.

"He's up in heaven now with that pacifier going 90-miles per hour in his mouth," said Zyonne's grandma Shirley Powell.

Powell said the family was just getting home to put the kids to bed late Wednesday night. Zyonne was in the backseat of the car and his mom was in the front. The toddler let himself out and ended up behind the car but was still in the driveway. His mom got out to get him. But Zyonne's family says a white SUV jumped the curb and hit him before she got the chance.

Powell will never forget the way he waved at her Wednesday night.

"He said, 'bye bye,'" said Powell. "So my baby knew then where he was going but I had no idea I was saying bye bye forever."

They called him Mr. Dudda. The toddler, not quite two years old, was full of life.

"He was a happy baby," said Zyonne's 9-year old sister Kei'orea Drake.

"He loved his pacifier," said Powell. "He loved it."

"He used to run around in the field out there," said Zyonne's 10-year old brother Deonte Drake.

Zyonne took his last steps outside his home on Garfield Avenue.

"The white SUV explorer came right up on the curb and hit him," said Powell.

Zyonne's story came to a screeching halt at that moment. The driver on the other hand didn't stop.

"Was he fidgeting with something?" asked Powell. "Coming around the curb flying? I don't know what he could have been doing."

All his siblings could see was those flashing lights. Days later, those lights have faded. And now reality is setting in.

"I was used to him being here with me every morning while my mom was at work," said Deonte.

But his family says little Zyonne is the one keeping them strong.

"His spirit is still here," said Powell. "It's in this house now as I sit here. This is his chair. I see Zyonne with the kids out there playing in the field. I see him playing with the big kids."

The big kids cherish their memories with Mr. Dudda. And they'll always remember their baby brother.

The family is planning a home-going party for Zyonne later this week. People in the community have started a memorial in front of their home where the crash happened.

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