Detroit, MI – A Detroit police officer was charged with involuntary manslaughter on Thursday in the death of a popular defense attorney who was killed when the officer failed to stop at a red light responding to an officer-in-trouble call and crashed into his vehicle.
The incident occurred at about 1 a.m. on Feb. 8 as Detroit Police Officer Teaira Iris Funderburg was responding with lights and sirens to an officer who needed help, The Detroit News reported.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a press release on June 24 that Officer Funderburg was driving at a high rate of speed and failed to stop at a red light at the intersection of West Chicago Road and the Jeffries Service Drive.
Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig said during a press conference shortly after the wreck that a police Ford Explorer with its lights and sirens had gotten off Interstate 96 at 59 mph, The Detroit News reported.
Chief Craig said the SUV only slowed to about 47 mph as the officer entered the roadway and did not stop at the red light to check for traffic.
Officer Funderburg sped through the intersection and slammed into a vehicle driven by 58-year-old Cliff Woodards that was going southbound on West Chicago, The Detroit News reported.
Woodards was killed in the crash.
Officer Funderburg, 29, was charged on June 24 with one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of willful neglect of duty, WXYZ reported.
If convicted, the almost five-year veteran of the Detroit Police Department is facing up to 15 years in prison.
She was arraigned via virtual hearing in the 36th District Court on Thursday and given a $100,000 bond, The Detroit News reported.
Officer Funderburg’s attorney, Jill Schinske, said that the officer was a mother of three children and asked Magistrate Joseph Boyer not to restrict her driving privileges while she was out on bond.
Schinske said Officer Funderburg had been on medical disability leave from the police department since the wreck and had been in counseling, The Detroit News reported.
But Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Kyle Heika asked the magistrate to restrict the officer’s driving and cited three prior crashes, including another wreck that occurred when she ran a red light on duty.
Heika also said that Officer Funderburg had received four speeding tickets in the past and was “driving in a grossly negligent way” when she killed Woodards, The Detroit News reported.
“This crash has been found by multiple of her superior officers to have been preventable,” the prosecutor told the magistrate.
Detroit Police Interim Chief James White said he would recommend the Detroit Police Board of Commissioners suspend Officer Funderburg without pay while the trial commenced, The Detroit News reported.
Chief White said Officer Funderburg’s actions were not representative of “the thousands and thousands of police officers that I have here that do this job day in and day out.”
“I can’t get into the head of the officer and exactly what occurred,” the chief said. “I think it’s best to let the judicial process play itself out. My heart and prayers go out to the Woodards’ family.”
Prosecutors had faced criticism for waiting more than five months to charge the officer, The Detroit News reported.
“Proper investigations take time and that is what we strive for in every case,” Worthy explained in a press release. “After a thorough analysis of the evidence, the defendant has been charged. It’s true that Mr. Woodards was respected in his profession, but the facts and evidence are what caused us to charge in this case.”