Truck driver charged in crash that killed CMPD officer, mother of 3, on I-85

CHARLOTTE — A truck driver has been charged after a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer who recently returned to work following maternity leave was killed and three other officers were injured during a crash investigation early Wednesday on Interstate 85 in north Charlotte.

The collision, which involved two semi-trucks and four Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department vehicles, happened around 3:40 a.m. in the southbound lanes near Exit 45, at W.T. Harris Boulevard.

Just before 8:30 a.m., Chief Jennings tweeted “It is with a heavy heart that I share the passing of CMPD Officer Mia Goodwin.”

Jennings said Officer Goodwin, 33, served the University City Division. He asked for the community’s thoughts and prayers.

“Rest easy hero, we have watch from here,” the chief said.

On Thursday, CMPD said they had charged one of the truck drivers, 50-year-old Daniel Leon Morgan, for his involvement in the deadly crash. Morgan was charged with involuntary manslaughter, misdemeanor death by vehicle, failure to reduce speed, and felony failure to move over for stopped emergency vehicles.

According to investigators, Morgan was driving a 2020 Volvo VNL and failed to move left to a single lane that was open on I-85. Police said Morgan failed to reduce speed and collided with four CMPD vehicles, another semi-truck and Officer Goodwin.

Morgan was screened for impairment but police said he was not impaired. He was also cited for displaying a fictitious registration plate knowing the same to be fictitious, police said.

He was released on bond around 5 a.m. Thursday, officials said.

Upon hearing the news Wednesday morning, Gov. Roy Cooper said, “Our hearts are with family, friends and the Charlotte Mecklenburg PD on the loss of Officer Mia Goodwin who was killed on duty during a traffic collision. I have talked with Chief Jennings to offer support and sympathy. Grateful for officers who take risks every day to keep us safe.”

‘We are asking for your prayers’

Jennings spoke at a 10 a.m. news conference, where he laid out the timeline of events that led to the collision.

According to the chief, at around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, just hours before the collision, officers and state troopers responded to a crash involving a tractor-trailer. Channel 9 crews sent to the scene at that time could see a big rig on its side that had spilled what appeared to be grain all across the southbound lanes, near W.T. Harris Boulevard.

At 1 a.m., one travel lane was opened to allow southbound traffic to bypass the accident. Traffic cones were deployed around the work crew and police vehicles with emergency equipment activated.

Jennings said officers remained at the scene all night as Department of Transportation crews worked to clean up the crash. A few officers that reported for third shift were then sent to the scene to relieve the officers who had been there since 10:30 p.m.

Officer Goodwin was one of those third shift officers.

(WATCH BELOW: CMPD gives update after officer killed in crash involving tractor-trailer on I-85)

At about 3:40 a.m., a semi-truck with a trailer collided with another semi (cab only) heading southbound and that collision then caused them to crash into the CMPD units who were working the original accident scene, Jennings said.

“Any officer on the scene pretty much was in the path of this collision,” the chief said.

One of the officers who was hit while she was in her vehicle called it in to dispatch and started assessing the injuries to the officers out there, the chief said. Officer Shannon Foster, Officer Sean Husk, and Officer Jackson Buffington were all hurt and taken to the hospital, where they were treated and later released.

Officer Goodwin was pronounced dead at the scene.

The chief said the four CMPD units that were damaged in the wreck were all on I-85 when they were hit by the crashing tractor-trailers.

He said one of the tractor-trailer drivers was also taken to the hospital. Police said they would talk to that truck driver as part of their investigation.

“We are asking for your prayers -- not just for the Goodwin family, but for all the CMPD family and for our great city,” Jennings said.

Mother of three had recently returned from maternity leave

Jennings said Goodwin, who was a mother of three young children and was married to a Charlotte firefighter, was hired on Oct. 26, 2015.

“She was a loving mother to her three kids -- a 3-year-old, a 1-year-old, and a 4-month-old,” an emotional Jennings said. “Officer Goodwin had just returned from maternity leave just a few days prior to this incident. She’s also survived by her loving husband, Brenton, who is a firefighter with the Charlotte Fire Department. Again, we ask for you to lift us up in prayer. Pray for the family. Pray for the officers that were injured. By the grace of God, they were each released from the hospital today.”

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fraternal Order of Police said it’s collecting donations in memory of Goodwin and all proceeds will go to her family. Learn more about how to donate here.

“I am always grateful and humbled by the dedication and commitment of our CMPD officers and Charlotte firefighters, and I know they are all hurting as we mourn for Officer Goodwin,” Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones said in a statement. “Families go to sleep every night across Charlotte knowing they’ll be safe because of the courage, pride and dedication of our CMPD officers. During this time of year, when many families will be spending time together and enjoying the blessings of the season, I ask that all Charlotteans keep the family and friends of Officer Goodwin in their hearts.”

‘I thank God that the officers that did survive are alive today’

The violent early-morning collision caused one of the tractor-trailers to jackknife and the southbound lanes were shut down for hours. Channel 9 crews saw a major police presence and multiple ambulances. State troopers as well as the Charlotte Fire Department were also on the scene.

CMPD cruisers escort an ambulance to the hospital following a crash on I-85 in northeast Charlotte on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021.

A CMPD vehicle with heavy rear-end damage was spotted off the side of the interstate and several officers could be seen surrounding an ambulance before it left for the hospital.

That ambulance, and another, received a police escort to Atrium Health in Dilworth, where dozens of CMPD officers had gathered.

“The officers, I can tell you, are distraught over what’s happened,” Jennings said. “They’re emotional over what happened. But what I also can tell you is that I thank God that the officers that did survive are alive today. If you see the aftermath of the collision and what happened, we are fortunate that we’re not talking about more officers that succumbed to injuries. But I was able to speak with each of them this morning and they’re doing as well as can be expected.”

Around 5:45 a.m., Channel 9 crews spotted a second CMPD vehicle on the scene that was also heavily damaged. Investigators could be seen taking photos and collecting evidence.

An officer who wanted to do more

Jennings said Officer Goodwin was someone who loved her job, as well as the people she worked with.

“What I can tell you is Officer Goodwin was good friends with a lot of people -- former and current officers -- and I know that she had reached out and actually asked for guidance ... she’d been on about five or six years, and she’s already looking for guidance on how she can do more and how she can advance more within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department,” the chief said. “You know, being in the University City Division, it’s a very busy division that keeps her moving quite a bit. And I do know that she had aspirations to do more. And that’s what we want out of all of our young officers.”

“I didn’t personally know her but what I can tell you from my conversations, is that she was an inspiring young woman who wanted to do more,” the chief said. “She was someone who felt like she had a lot to offer in this profession, resilient. And she loved the people around her the people that she worked with. So, I know that her and her husband are loving people and that they both had future plans and aspirations of their future and it’s one of these situations where we recognize now that life is not guaranteed and life is short -- and we have to embrace it while we’re here.”

Channel 9 could see more than a dozen police vehicles leave the crash scene around 5:30 a.m., escorting another ambulance in what appeared to be a procession for Officer Goodwin. Jennings confirmed that that procession had taken the fallen officer’s body to the medical examiner’s office.

It was unclear, Jennings said, when another procession would take place.

CMPD Officer Mia Goodwin was killed in an early morning crash on I-85 in northeast Charlotte on Wednesday, December 22, 2021.

“This profession is one that’s not for everyone -- but I do know that she knew it was for her,” Jennings said about Officer Goodwin. “And I know that she wanted to continue and make this a career and not just a job. So, you know, I have to give praise to any officers, any of our people, any employee that endures the challenges that we have to endure every single day. We put on this uniform and we know that there’s no guarantees that we’re coming home to our families, and that is the most difficult part.”

An apparent police procession escorts an ambulance to the hospital from the crash scene along I-85 in northeast Charlotte on Wednesday Dec. 22, 2021.

‘They’re out there to protect and serve and do their job’

The crash remains under investigation but the chief made it clear that the tragedy could have been avoided.

“The only way this doesn’t happen is if people recognize that there are blue lights in the roadway,” he said. “Slow down and take extra precaution, and when you don’t do that you put the lives of men and women who are there to serve and protect in danger. And I think that’s what we’re looking at today. Officer Goodwin and the other three officers that were involved are heroes. They’re out there to protect and serve and do their job.”

Jennings said Goodwin’s death was the first traffic accident resulting in a CMPD officer fatality in decades.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years. This is the first traffic accident that involved a fatality of one of our officers since I’ve been here,” he said. “I believe -- I’m not definite on this -- but as we look back, we believe the last time this has happened has been in the 1980s.”

The interstate was shut down for most of the day Tuesday but reopened by 4:30 p.m.

Check back with wsoctv.com for updates on this story.

(WATCH BELOW: ‘Rest easy, hero’: CMPD officer, mother of 3, killed in crash on I-85, chief says)

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