An Atlanta police officer who killed a man while allegedly speeding has been indicted on a misdemeanor charge of vehicular homicide, the Fulton County district attorney announced Friday.
Officer Christopher Blaise ran over 62-year-old Bernard Moore with his police cruiser while Moore walking across Metropolitan Parkway on the night of March 6, authorities said.
A surveillance video from a nearby business showed the patrol car traveling at what appeared to be a high rate of speed without lights or a siren, which caused Moore’s family and their lawyers to demand the officer be fired and prosecuted.
On Friday, Rob Bozeman, one of the lawyers representing the family, called the indictment “bittersweet” because the grand jury did not bring felony charges, which would have been warranted if reckless driving was involved.
“It is something but it is not what would have happened to the average citizen — that is what is frustrating for the family,” Bozeman said. “It is hard for any officer to ever be indicted because they have so many advantages in being able … to speak to the grand jury.”
Unlike ordinary citizens, police officers get to sit in the grand jury when evidence is presented and testify before it without being questioned by prosecutors, Bozeman said. That legal protection often allows officers involved in possibly wrongful duty-related deaths to sway grand jurors in their favor, he said.
Bozeman said Blaise was not drug tested after the accident but Moore was drug tested. Police initially emphasized that Moore was out of the crosswalk when struck and Blaise was on a routine patrol, with no mention of the speeding.
The misdemeanor indictment means that Blaise faces a maximum sentence of only a year in jail, said Mawuli Mel Davis, another lawyer representing the family.
The family plans to lobby Atlanta City Hall to make drug testing mandatory for officers involved in car accidents and to lobby the legislature to amend the laws allowing police officers special privileges before grand juries, Davis said.
Blaise is on administrative desk duty, Sgt. Warren Pickard with Atlanta police said Friday night.
The police department will not be able to comment until Chief George Turner has had an opportunity to review the case, Pickard said.