An officer who was involved in a crash that killed a pedestrian Saturday has been charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said Wednesday.
Officer Phillip Barker, 24, was driving his cruiser at 100 mph in a 35 mph zone when he struck and killed 28-year-old James Michael Short, police said.
The crash happened Saturday at 3:20 a.m. on Morehead Street near Euclid Avenue. Police said Barker was driving a marked Chevrolet Caprice patrol car when he hit Short. Barker was responding to a different crash at the time with a team of other officers, police said. Short was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police Chief Kerr Putney said speed was the determining factor in charging Barker. Putney said Barker had his sirens and lights on, and was traveling through a green light. The chief said officers are allowed to speed when their lights are on, but they have to do so with regard for the safety of others.
Putney also said there is a video of the incident, which “will be released at the proper time.”
Barker was charged with speeding in 2013, just before his 20th birthday, court records show. He was charged for driving 70 mph in a 55 mph zone and ended up paying a fine for improper equipment, records show.
Putney said Barker, who was hired by CMPD in January 2016, had recently finished his year-long probationary period. “Sometimes with youth, you don’t have the experience,” he said.
Putney said the decision to charge Barker was difficult professionally and personally.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to both the Short and the Barker families. Both families have been devastated today,” he said.
Barker turned himself in, and Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office records show he was arrested at 3:13 p.m. Wednesday. His lawyer is Charlotte defense attorney Michael Greene.
Police said Barker is on leave without pay. They initially placed him on paid administrative leave, which is standard department procedure. An internal affairs investigation is also ongoing to determine if Barker followed CMPD policies and procedures.
Short was a student at Central Piedmont Community College, and was enrolled for the summer term, the school said. He studied computer technology and was also registered for the fall semester. He also worked as an IT intern at the school. Short’s family has not responded to requests for comment.
Police said Short was crossing the street against the traffic light.
Greene told Observer news partner WBTV that he wished CMPD “would have let us have our opportunity to tell our story prior to making a rushed decision to charge him ... The accident, tragic as it may be, was an accident. A priority one service call, and unfortunately the accident happened.”
The crash was the first time a CMPD officer was involved in a fatal collision since March 2009, when police said Officer Martray Proctor hit a car driven by Shatona Robinson. Robinson, a 20-year-old retirement home worker, died at the scene.
Proctor pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to three years’ probation in 2009. Proctor was speeding as fast as 111 mph in a 45 mph zone, according to investigators, and did not have his siren on.
Observer researcher Maria David contributed
LaVendrick Smith; 704-358-5101; @LaVendrickS