CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) — On Monday, CMPD officer Phillip Barker’s criminal trial regarding the death of 28-year-old James Short will begin.
Barker is charged with involuntary manslaughter, after striking and killing Short with his police vehicle while responding to an emergency call in July 2017.
Barker was reportedly driving around 100 mph in a 35 mph zone at the intersection of Morehead Street and Euclid Avenue.
According to CMPD, Barker’s lights and sirens were on at the time of the crash, and he had a green light when he entered the intersection. Reports show Short may have been severely intoxicated at the time, and was crossing the street against his light.
Still, CMPD decided to charge Barker in the case, as they could not justify his speed while responding to his call.
“Listen. This is not easy, but it’s the right thing to do,” said former CMPD Chief Kerr Putney in a 2017 press conference. “You can exceed the speed limit as a law enforcement officer responding to an emergency, but you always have to do so with due regard for the safety of others.”
Attorney and former CMPD officer Walter Bowers said the jury will need to decide whether Barker’s driving response was reckless, regardless of Short’s circumstances.
“At the end of the day, an officer has a responsibility to respond in support of any situation that may require a priority one response. At the same time, that officer has a responsibility to do it safely,” said Bowers.
The defense is expected to argue that Short was intoxicated at the time of the crash and should not have been in the street at the time of the accident. Previously, Barker’s lawyer Michael Greene told Queen City News that his client did not commit a crime.
“Certainly, there is going to be a strong argument that this individual was negligent in his own right, and ultimately caused his own demise,” said Bowers.
In late 2018, the City of Charlotte paid Short’s family $950,000.
Involuntary manslaughter is a Class F felony, punishable by up to 41 months in prison.