A North Carolina police officer has been charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle after he struck and killed a man crossing the street.
Philip Barker, 24, was speeding through a neighborhood at speeds of 100 miles per hour when responding to a call around 3:20 a.m. on July 8, according to the Charlotte Observer. The speed limit in the local neighborhood was 35 miles per hour.
Barker had his police lights and sirens on as he drove through a green light. James Michael Short, 28, was crossing the intersection against the green light when he was struck by Barker's vehicle. Medical examiners pronounced Short dead at the scene.
Police Chief Kerr Putney said that officers are allowed to speed while responding to a call, but must do so with the safety of the community and citizens nearby. Putney noted that even though Barker was following protocol with his lights and sirens, the rate of speed at which Barker was traveling was the determining factor in charging him with misdemeanor death.
Putney said the decision to charge Barker was difficult for both personal and professional reasons. Barker turned himself in to the local police department after the accident and said that he didn't have the benefit of tenure on his side.
"Sometimes with youth, you don't have the experience," Barker said. He had been charged with speeding in 2013 before his career as an officer began.
Barker was placed on paid administrative leave before being placed on unpaid leave. He had recently finished his year-long probationary period before becoming a full-time police officer.
Short was a student at the local community college, studying computer science and working as an IT intern before he was killed. The family did not respond to the Observer's requests for comment, but a friend of Short told WSOC that Short had "the biggest heart of anyone I ever knew."
"Our hearts and prayers go out to both the Short and the Barker families. Both families have been devastated today,” Putney said, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Barker's attorney Michael Greene expressed his displeasure with the timing of the charges.
"[I wish they] would have let us have our opportunity to tell our story prior to making a rushed decision to charge him ... The accident, tragic as it may be, was an accident. A priority one service call, and unfortunately the accident happened," said Greene.
The trial for Barker will begin August 1. He was allowed to leave on his own recognizance without posting bail.
Sources: Charlotte Observer, WSOC / Photo credit: Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office via Charlotte Observer, WSOC, Valerie Everett/Flickr