A Benton Township patrol officer who was driving 30 miles above the speed limit when he hit and killed a pedestrian last month is being charged with a misdemeanor -- moving violation causing death, the Berrien County prosecutor announced today.
Officer Eugene Anderson Jr., 52, of Benton Harbor, was driving to a call about a domestic disturbance on Quince Drive when he struck Kimberly Bedford, 48, of Hartford, about 9 p.m. Sept. 20, on Pipestone Avenue near Rose Street.
The speed limit along that stretch of Pipestone is 35 mph, but Anderson was driving 65 mph, Prosecutor Michael Sepic said.
Anderson, a seven-year veteran on the force, did not activate his lights or siren, actions that would have exempted him from the posted speed limits, Sepic said.
"Absent the siren and emergency lights, the driver of an emergency vehicle is then bound by the speed laws as any motorist would be," Sepic said in a news release.
The charge of moving violation causing death has a maximum sentence of one year in jail.
The Michigan Legislature did away with the charge of negligent homicide several years ago, Sepic said, and in its place offered prosecutors two options for charging a driver who has killed somebody in an accident. One option is the moving violation causing death; the other is reckless driving causing death, a 15-year felony.
Outside of the speeding, "there was no other evidence of negligence," Sepic said. "He wasn't texting or using a cell phone or eating a sandwich" that would have justified the felony charge.
The Benton Township Police Department issued their own news release saying that Anderson was terminated from his job, effective today, for violating department rules and policies in connection with the Sept. 20 accident.
The release said the department would have no further comment, but noted Anderson is a member of Police Officer's Labor Council Union and any grievances regarding his termination would be handled based on the union contract.
Bedford had been visiting friends on Rose Street. She was walking across Pipestone Avenue, a four-lane road, in an area not marked as a pedestrian walkway and had a blood-alcohol level greater than that permitted for driving a motor vehicle, the release said.
The Berrien County Sheriff's Department conducted the crash investigation. A Michigan State Police unit responded to the domestic violence call on Quince Drive.