CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The family of a Central Piedmont Community College student struck and killed by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer has received a nearly $1 million settlement.
In July 2017, Officer Phillip Barker, 24, was driving 100 mph in a 35 mph zone on Morehead Street near Dilworth Neighborhood Grille when he hit and killed 28-year-old James Short.
Investigators said that Barker was responding to a crash at the time of the collision.
Officials said Short was intoxicated at the time, but he was crossing in a crosswalk.
Short's family accepted a $950,000 settlement from the city of Charlotte, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and Barker. The city made the payment in December.
Barker was charged with involuntary manslaughter and is awaiting trial. He entered a not guilty plea in court in early October.
Channel 9's Glenn Counts was inside the courtroom when the former officer faced the judge and he said the family of the victim was present.
"At the time he killed their son, it was a 35 mph zone and there was no need for him to be traveling at those speeds,” said attorney Charles Monett, who represents Short's family.
A grand jury indicted Barker on a charge of felony involuntary manslaughter in Short’s death but he was originally charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle.
Mike Greene, the defense attorney representing Barker, said that he believes the upgraded felony charge against his client is too much.
"This officer is saying he's not guilty of the charges and he's presumed innocent till proven guilty by the state. I don't think they are going to be able to do that,” Greene said.
(James Michael Short)
Police said dashcam video and other evidence showed that Short, who was legally drunk, was crossing at a red light and the officer had a green light, but Police Chief Kerr Putney emphasized that the excessive speed was what warranted charges against Barker in the first place.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have strict rules when it comes to emergency responses.
The rules state that the officer's speed must always be reasonable and prudent, and the department doesn't feel going 100 mph to an accident with minor injuries qualifies.
That goes to another criterion, which is the seriousness of the call for service.
An officer responding to a man chasing someone with a gun would get a lot more latitude.
The rules state that the officer will reduce the speed of the police vehicle when approaching an intersection in that type of emergency.
“I think it's an overreach,” Greene said. “I also think he's being treated far differently than other people who've also been charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle.”
Greene said he’s convinced that Barker was doing his job and not committing a crime the day of the deadly crash.
Officials said it may take a few years for the former officer to go to trial, but the attorney representing the family of the victim said they have decided to pursue a civil suit against the city.
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