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Driver who struck high-ranking CMS official says he was blinded by the sun

Cars stop as a woman walks in a crosswalk on South Davidson Street between East Fourth Street and East Third Street outside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. At about the same time on Tuesday, a driver who told police he was blinded by the sun struck Akeshia Craven-Howell, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools assistant superintendent, after she entered the crosswalk.
Cars stop as a woman walks in a crosswalk on South Davidson Street between East Fourth Street and East Third Street outside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. At about the same time on Tuesday, a driver who told police he was blinded by the sun struck Akeshia Craven-Howell, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools assistant superintendent, after she entered the crosswalk. jmarusak@charlotteobserver.com

A driver who struck a high-ranking Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools official in uptown Charlotte on Tuesday will face no charges after telling police he was blinded by the sun.

Akeshia Craven-Howell, the assistant superintendent in charge of student assignment and magnet programs, was hit in a crosswalk outside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center at about 4:30 p.m. She was recovering at home on Wednesday, CMS officials said.

Akeshia_Craven-Howell
Akeshia Craven-Howell Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

She was one of five pedestrians hit by cars in Charlotte over the past week. Three died, and two, including Craven-Howell, were hurt.

Craven-Howell was in a crosswalk on South Davidson Street between East Third Street and East Fourth Street that is heavily used by the public to get to and from the Government Center. Signs posted at the crosswalk warn drivers that state law requires them to “yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.” “STATE LAW” is highlighted in fluorescent yellow.

Craven-Howell works at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Education Center south of uptown Charlotte and was on her way to the Government Center for Tuesday’s school board meeting, which drew a packed house for a public hearing on a controversial diversity policy.

The driver, a 51-year-old Charlotte man, told police he turned left onto South Davidson Street from East Fourth Street, that the sun was in his face and that a small white vehicle was in front of him, according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police wreck report. He said a pedestrian “walked out in front of him,” that he did not see her and then “collided with her, forcing her to the ground,” the report says.

Craven-Howell was unable to tell officers at the scene what happened, according to the report. She had “an apparent injury to the center of her head,” the report says.

A witness crossing on the opposite side of the street from Craven-Howell told police she saw a vehicle “coming to a screeching halt and colliding with” a pedestrian, according to the police report. Another witness told police she saw the vehicle trying to stop and then colliding with the pedestrian.

The police report says the driver was traveling at an estimated 20 mph before nearing Craven-Howell – that’s 15 mph under the posted speed limit. His estimated speed at impact was 10 mph, the report says.

Craven-Howell played a high-profile role in the student assignment review that played out over the past two years. She’s now in charge of the magnet expansion and other changes taking place in 2018-19.

CMS spokesman Tracy Russ said other CMS staff are covering her duties while she recovers. “Akeshia is very appreciative of the outpouring of concern and support,” he said.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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