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$1.35 Million Settlement in Tempe Police Speeding Wrongful Death Suit

Kyle Baker, a 24-year-old Mesa Community College student, was crossing a street in Tempe, Arizona, at around 2:00 a.m. on November 26, 2005, when he was struck and killed by a police cruiser driven by on-duty police officer William Cullins. Cullins was travelling at 95 mph in a 45 mph zone without the use of his siren or light bar. Baker had a blood alcohol level of 0.18. Cullins said he was responding to a call for backup from an officer investigating a possible stolen car. Jim Barker and Kelly Wiscot, Kyle Barker's parents, filed suit against the City of Tempe.

A Chandler City prosecutor who investigated the case said Cullins's car recorded traveling at 95 mph that night, but wasn't specific about the time. Cullins was fined $491 for speeding. A subsequent Tempe police investigation revealed that the car recorded travelling 95 mph five seconds before hitting Barker. The investigation determined that Cullins was driving recklessly and had violated three department policies. As a result of that investigation, Cullins was suspended without pay for one month--the maximum penalty allowed under police department guidelines.

Twenty of Cullins's friends and family members attended the Tempe City Council meeting on January 12, 2010, in which the council unanimously voted to settle the suit for $1.35 million. During a public comments section of the meeting, Barker's parents complained that the punishment given to Cullins was too light and noted that no one had ever apologized to them for the loss of their son. They expressed their belief that Cullins should have been fired and police department policy should be changed to allow for dismissal in similar future cases.

Source: The Arizona Republic.

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