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CMPD officer convicted in 2017 fatal wreck


Former Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Phillip Barker was convicted by a jury Wednesday of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle after a 2017 wreck in which he struck and killed a pedestrian, but was acquitted of a more serious felony charge and won't serve jail time.

Phillip Barker
Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office
Arrest records
Phillip Barker

Barker was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter, a felony. Judge Robert Ervin sentenced him to 60 days in jail, but suspended that sentence contingent on Barker successfully completing a year of unsupervised probation. Barker was also sentenced to perform 50 hours of community service and forbidden to drive a motor vehicle for one year, according to Mecklenburg District Attorney Spencer Merriweather.

Barker, now 29 years old, was charged after the early morning wreck in July 2017. Police said that Barker, who had been on the police force for less than two years, was driving in excess of 100 mph in a 35 mph zone when he hit James Michael Short, 28, as Short crossed Morehead Street at Euclid Avenue, near uptown, just after 3 a.m.

CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings said in a statement Wednesday that Barker has been on unpaid leave since the wreck, and was cited for termination pending the outcome of the case. Jennings said Barker submitted his resignation after the verdict and is no longer employed by CMPD.

"Although this case comes to a close after a decision was made today in the courtroom, this is a tragedy that both the Barker and Short families will carry with them the rest of their lives. My thoughts and prayers are with them," wrote Jennings.

Barker had been responding to an emergency call about a wreck on Morehead, with his lights and sirens on. At the time of the wreck, former CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said officers can exceed the speed limit when they must, but they need to do so in a safe manner.

"You can exceed the speed limit, as a law enforcement officer, when you are on emergency traffic," Putney said in 2017. "But you also have to do so with due regard for the safety of others. And that is the key trigger here in this case . . . This is a mistake of the head, though, not of the heart. 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."

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Ely Portillo has worked as a journalist in Charlotte for over a decade. Before joining WFAE, he worked at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and the Charlotte Observer.