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Opening statements shared in CMPD officer's trial

The defense argued Joshua Short wasn't supposed to be in the road. But the prosecution said former officer Phillip Barker was driving too fast.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Opening statements began in the trial of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer Phillip Barker on Thursday.

Barker is accused of hitting and killing James Michael Short in 2017, while on his way to a call in Uptown. Officials say Barker had his lights and sirens on while driving 100 miles per hour. 

Prosecutors showed body cam footage from the night of the incident. WCNC Charlotte chose not to show the entire video, as it could be disturbing. 

“This case is about this defendant’s actions, his criminally negligent actions,” prosecutor Bill Bunting said during opening statements.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE of the trial here

Laying out their case for why Barker should be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, the prosecution told the jury he not only hit and killed Short, but that it was a gruesome death. 

“He ended Michael Short's life instantaneously, in an extremely violent crash crash -- this dismembered Michael's body," Bunting said. 

During opening statements, Barker's attorney stated why his client is not guilty. He says the call Barker was responding to when he hit Short was a "priority one" call. 

“Priority one, which under CMPD guidelines is, get there in six minutes,” George Laughrun said.  

The defense team argued Short shouldn't have been on the road when he was hit, and that he was highly intoxicated and taking several medications.

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In the body cam video, moments before Short is hit, the video shows Barker with one hand on the wheel, sirens blaring. Buildings and street lights are seen zooming by. The aftermath shows Barker get out of the patrol car, while other officers arrive. 

Part-time CMPD employee Tommie Horton was the first prosecution witness. He teaches driver and firearm training at the academy and also taught Barker during his time there. He said an officer's speed must be reasonable when responding to a call. 

“He did not reduce his speed," Horton said. 

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Short's brother, Joshua Short also took the stand, calling his brother a 'happy-go-lucky' guy. 

His brother's mental health was the subject of several questions from defense attorneys. 

The trial starts back up Friday at 9:30 a.m.

Contact Lexi Wilson at lwilson@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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