Flint, MI – A 16-year-old suspect is potentially facing up to 15 years in prison for causing the head-on collision that killed Flint Police Captain Collin Birnie in February.
The unidentified teen has been charged with felony counts of reckless driving causing death and manslaughter with a motor vehicle, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton confirmed on Wednesday, according to WJRT.
Leyton said the 16-year-old male suspect has been charged as a juvenile, but that he plans to ask a family court judge for permission to prosecute him as an adult.
Capt. Birnie, 53, was traveling down Elms Road on his way home at the end of his shift when the collision occurred at approximately 6 p.m. on Feb. 4, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Investigators said the teen suspect veered into the oncoming lane at a high rate of speed while trying to pass numerous vehicles with his Chevrolet Traverse moments before the collision, according to WJRT.
Other motorists slowed down to allow the teen room to get back into the correct lane, but the suspect lost control of his vehicle and swerved back into the oncoming lane, slamming head-on into Capt. Birnie’s department-issued Chevrolet Tahoe.
The gravely-injured police captain was rushed to a local hospital by ambulance, where he died later in the evening, WJRT reported.
Capt. Birnie served the Flint Police Department (FPD) for 26 years, the agency said in a Facebook post shortly after his death.
FPD Chief Terence Green said Capt. Birnie always made others smile with his own laughter, MLive reported.
“I can still hear his laugh,” Chief Green said. “You could hear that laugh throughout the entire building. This is going to be such a void in this police department.”
The chief said Capt. Birnie was dedicated to serving his community and that he loved his job.
“He never complained once about his job, even with all the negative aspects of law enforcement,” he told MLive. “I’ve never seen an administrator more dedicated than Capt. Birnie.”
He oversaw the FPD’s road patrol division and tactical response team at the time of his death.
Capt. Birnie became eligible for full retirement in August of last year, but he wasn’t ready to leave his career just yet, FPD Captain Leigh Golden told MLive.
“He had a couple of projects he was working on: one of them being getting new bomb squad members certified,” Capt. Golden said. “He did not want to leave that work for someone else to complete. He wanted to see it through.”
Prior to his law enforcement career, Capt. Birnie served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1988 until 1992, MLive reported.
Fellow FPD officer and police union president Kevin Smith described the longtime captain as the agency’s “rock.”
“He knew everybody, and you could call him anytime to ask him any question, even on his personal phone,” Officer Smith said. “He was smart, intelligent; everybody looked up to him.”
Capt. Birnie leaves behind his wife, Tina, his two daughters, and his grandchildren, MLive reported.
“He would want us to stay strong, keep moving forward, and be that pillar for the community that he was,” Officer Smith told MLive. “Man, this is a huge loss for us.”