On-duty CMPD officer pleads not guilty in fatal crash, rejects plea offer

Barker (Mecklenburg County Jail)
Barker (Mecklenburg County Jail)(Mecklenburg County Jail)
Updated: Oct. 4, 2018 at 11:17 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer charged in a fatal crash that happened while he was on duty went before a judge Thursday morning for his arraignment.

Barker is accused of hitting and killing James Michael Short with his patrol vehicle in the 800 block of East Stonewall Street in July 2017. According to CMPD, three marked police Charlotte-Mecklenburg police cruisers were responding to a crash where a vehicle had struck a building.

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Phillip Barker entered a not guilty plea. The department arrested him in July 2017.

Investigators said he was driving too fast - close to 100 mph on Morehead - while on duty and responding to an early morning call when he hit and killed Short. Barker’s attorney says his client was doing his job. “As a law enforcement officer one of their duties is to get to calls, especially priority one calls,” said Attorney Michael Greene. “This is him saying he’s not guilty of the charge."

Short was walking on the road. Autopsy results show Short’s blood alcohol was about three times the legal limit for driving. “I will say in this state it is certainly not illegal to be intoxicated and walking” said Attorney Charles Monnett, who is representing the victim’s family. Short’s relatives were in court for Barker’s arraignment.

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Police say initial evidence shows that the officers had their lights and sirens on.

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“They’re convinced that he in fact guilty of the offense he has been charged with,” said Attorney Monnett. “I think the evidence will show he was going around 95 miles an hour at the time he killed their son it was a 35 mph an zone and there was simply no need for him to be travelling at those speeds."

Prosecutors offered to reduce the involuntary manslaughter charge for a guilty plea to misdemeanor death by vehicle.

Barker turned it down. “Would you plead guilty to something if you didn’t do it? or if you weren’t guilty? No you wouldn’t,” Attorney Greene said. “You’re pleading not guilty because you’re saying what the state is alleging that you’re innocent of. " While he awaits his trial, Barker is still on unpaid administrative leave. WBTV has learned that CMPD cited Barker for termination but Barker has filed an appeal with the civil service board.

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