North Carolina officer charged with killing pedestrian while on duty

PHOTO: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Officer Phillip Barker, 24, who was recently charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle.WSOC
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Officer Phillip Barker, 24, who was recently charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle.

A police office in Charlotte, North Carolina, was charged with hitting and killing a pedestrian with his patrol vehicle while on duty, police said Wednesday.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Phillip Barker, 24, was charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle, accused of fatally striking James Short, 28, last week, the department said.

Short was crossing the street around 3 a.m. Saturday when Barker allegedly struck him while traveling at 100 mph in a 30 mph zone, according to police.

Short, who celebrated his birthday eight days earlier, was crossing a street against a red light when he was struck, according to the department, which said Barker had his lights and sirens on at the time.

During a press conference Wednesday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Kerr Putney said Barker, who recently completed the department’s mandatory post-training probation period, has been placed on administrative leave without pay.

He said the charges were filed "very recently" and cited excessive speed as the primary factor.

"It's not an easy decision to make. But looking through the laws, the compelling factor was the speed," Putney said. "We always talk about accountability, and true to form, we're going to hold ourselves accountable."

He called it "a mistake of the head, not of the heart" and said Barker had the right intentions.

"The officer had the right intentions, but sometimes, with youth, you don't have the experience, you don't have the knowledge, you don't have the time," Putney said.

Barker's attorney, Mike Greene, told ABC affiliate WSOC that he was surprised when the department issued an arrest warrant for his client.

"I wish they would've given us a chance to tell our side before this rushed decision," Greene said, adding that the magistrate allowed Barker to leave without posting bond.

A memorial service for Short, a computer technology student at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, was held Wednesday morning.

Short's friend Jessica Perhealth described him as a loving man with a big heart.

"He had [the biggest] heart of anybody I ever knew," she told WSOC Wednesday. "I pray for that officer. I pray for peace."

Barker is scheduled to appear in court in August.

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