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Charlotte pays $950,000 to family of CPCC student killed by speeding police car

The scene on Morehead Street in 2017 after a speeding police car struck and killed CPCC student James Michael Short.
The scene on Morehead Street in 2017 after a speeding police car struck and killed CPCC student James Michael Short.

The city of Charlotte has paid $950,000 to the family of James Michael Short, a student at Central Piedmont Community College who in 2017 was killed by a speeding police car.

Just before the crash, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer Phillip Barker was reportedly driving up to 100 miles per hour in a 35 mile-per-hour zone when his car slammed into James Michael Short.

CMPD officer Phillip Barker.jpeg
CMPD Officer Phillip Barker

Short, a 28-year-old student at CPCC, was walking across Morehead street against the traffic light around 3:30 a.m. when he was hit, police said. The officer driving the car, Phillip Barker, was in a marked police car responding to a different crash at the time.

Barker, now 25, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and is awaiting trial. He is on unpaid administrative leave from the police force, according to his attorney, Michael Greene.

Police Chief Kerr Putney said at the time of Barker’s arrest that the officer’s speed was “excessive.” The department has recommended firing Barker, pending a Civil Service Board hearing

But according to his attorney, Barker was driving fast to the crash scene that morning in July 2017 because he had information that someone might have been seriously injured.

Short, meanwhile, was wearing black clothing and had a blood alcohol content at least three times over the legal driving limit that night, Greene said.

“We’re eager to have our day in court,” Greene said. “This wasn’t a crime. It was an accident.”

The city of Charlotte paid its settlement to Short’s family in December.

The Observer requested settlement documents as part of a collaborative investigation by nine newsrooms, which found that government officials in North Carolina have shelled out millions to quell the risk of legal action — sometimes with little transparency.

Since 2014, the city has paid out more than $28 million for legal settlements, an Observer review found.

Ames Alexander, an investigative reporter for the Observer, has examined corruption in state prisons, the mistreatment of injured poultry workers and many other subjects. His stories have won dozens of state and national awards. He was a key member of two reporting teams that were named Pulitzer finalists.


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