Kyle Barker was crossing Baseline Road near Rural Road at 2:00 on the morning November 26, 2005. At the same time, Officer William Cullins was rushing westbound on Baseline to provide backup to another officer when he struck and killed Barker. (Cullins was charged with criminal speeding and issued a civil citation for which he later paid a fine of $491).
According to the autopsy report, Barker was well over the legal blood alcohol level, at .18. According to an internal police investigation, Cullins was driving 95 mph five seconds before the accident.
Cullins was suspended without pay for one month after the investigation determined that he was driving recklessly, and that he violated no less than three (3) city policies related to obeying traffic laws and the safe operation of vehicles. The suspension was the maximum allowed by the department.
We all know police officers have to make split second decisions, which at times may cause dangerous circumstances. However, the police and fire officials are subject to the same driving laws as are ordinary citizens. Their responsibilities include, at ALL times, to use reasonable care and caution, no matter what the circumstances. The same standards of reasonable care form the basis for tort or injury law in Arizona.
Some may place blame on Kyle Barker for being intoxicated, but, being intoxicated is not a criminal offense. However, if Kyle Barker’s level of intoxication was substantial enough that he could no longer act in a reasonable fashion to provide himself basic levels of protection, then he too might have been partially to blame here. The City would have to prove that Barker’s intoxication would have prohibited him from getting to safety had he been alerted to Cullins--by the cars lights and sirens—had Cullins been using them (which he was not).
This is another sad and preventable accident. We respect the police for what they do for us every day, however, we cannot lose sight of the fact that they are not allowed to perform their duties with disregard to the same laws that we are required to follow.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email Chris Zachar directly at Czachar@zacharlaw.com, or visit our website at www.ZacharAssociates.com.