A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer who struck and killed a man during a 100-mph dash up Morehead Street has been indicted by a grand jury and charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Officer Phillip Barker, 24, initially faced a misdemeanor death by vehicle charge in connection with the July collision that killed 28-year-old James Michael Short.
But after hearing details of the investigation late last month, a Mecklenburg grand jury voted to indict Barker on the more serious felony charge of involuntary manslaughter, which sets the officer up for a trial in Superior Court.
The officer’s attorney, Michael Greene of Charlotte, described the new manslaughter indictment as “a gross overreach by the District Attorney’s Office.”
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On the day of the crash, Barker reportedly hits speeds of up to 100 mph in a 35 mph zone while responding to an early morning call. His vehicle struck Short as he was crossing Morehead near Euclid Avenue.
Greene said Wednesday that Barker was answering a priority call at around 3:30 a.m. when the collision occurred. Medical records show that Short had a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit for driving, the attorney said.
Short ran into Morehead “despite having three marked CMPD patrol vehicles traveling in his direction with blue lights and sires activated,” Greene said.
“This was an unfortunate accident, but it was definitely not a crime, and is certainly not a felony.”
Police Chief Kerr Putney said at the time of Barker’s arrest that the officer’s speed was “excessive.”
Citing Barker’s youth and inexperience, he said Barker had the “right intentions,” but had committed a “mistake of the head, not the heart.”
Barker, who joined CMPD in January 2016, was placed on unpaid administrative leave.
“A lot of citizens in this exact same situation are issued a citation,” Greene said. “If you want to treat everybody the same, you could of issued him a citation,”
WBTV, an Observer news partner, contributed.