Streetlight possible on Monroeville Boulevard where pedestrian was hit
A Monroeville police sergeant will not face charges after he fatally struck a drunken pedestrian with his marked patrol car in October, the Allegheny County District Attorney said Tuesday.
“I can't find negligence, much less criminal negligence,” Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said at a press conference announcing the results of the investigation into the Oct. 3 death of Michael Barnes, 49, of Monroeville.
Zappala said Barnes had been drinking for most of the day and had a blood-alcohol content of .384 when he walked into the 3900 block of the four-lane Monroeville Boulevard about 7:20 p.m. Barnes' friend told police he had finished a fifth of Jim Beam by noon, Zappala said.
Barnes was making his second trip that day to a nearby liquor store when he was hit by Sgt. Edward Lewkowicz, an 18-year veteran of the Monroeville force, Zappala said.
The incident was captured on Lewkowicz' dashboard camera, which recorded 20 seconds before the sergeant flipped on his emergency lights. Investigators found Barnes' headphones near the scene and the metal band Slayer's “Reign in Blood album,” Zappala said.
“(Barnes was) not looking to his left,” Zappala said the video shows. “He's looking straight ahead.”
Lewkowicz hit Barnes with the right front bumper while driving 39 mph, Zappala said. The speed limit is posted at 35 mph, but Zappala said Lewkowicz' speed did not concern him.
Friends and family said they took issue with the results of the investigation.
“It sounds like they're trying to push all of this under the carpet,” said Tamara Lord, the mother of Barnes' two children.“I don't know. This doesn't sound right.”
Lewkowicz was not responding to an emergency call and was looking to his left, scanning the rear of businesses as part of his patrol responsibilities, Zappala said.
Detectives reviewed his phone records and Zappala said Lewkowicz was not using his phone at the time of the collision. He was placed on administrative leave, per police policy.
Monroeville police Chief Steven Pascarella said Lewkowicz was scheduled to return to duty on Nov. 13.
Councilman Jim Johns said he was pleased to hear that Lewkowicz would return to work.
“That was a serious, tragic accident that happened, and I understand that, but he's a great policeman and we need him back on the job,” Johns said at the Monroeville Council meeting Tuesday.
Safety precautions on the 3900 block of the road were under way as of last week at the request of Monroeville resident George Stakelin, who lives in an apartment building near the scene of the accident.
“We have approximately three buses that stop there twice a day,” Stakelin said.
“We have a lot of mothers and fathers who walk their children up to that general area ... if we could get a crosswalk, we could eliminate a future fatality.”
Monroeville Council voted, 6-0, Tuesday night to install a streetlight beside the road on municipal property. The road is owned by the county.
Zappala said his office contacted county officials about the road.
“I'm not sure what the solution is, but some attention must be given,” Zappala said.
There are no streetlights or crosswalks on the four-lane road within 50 feet of where Barnes was hit. Between 15,000 and 21,000 vehicles travel the 3900 block per day, according to a 2012 road study by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission.
County Spokesperson Amie Downs said Tuesday after Zappala's press conference that Allegheny County Public Works is “constantly looking at and reviewing county roads, including Monroeville Boulevard.”
“There is nothing about this county road that is unsafe,” Downs said.
Lord said the only good that could come from Barnes' death is a precautionary action to prevent another family from losing someone.
“I don't want Michael's death to be written off as an isolated incident, and I certainly don't want someone else to get harmed there,” Lord wrote in an email Monday. “Something good needs to come out of this tragedy.”
Margaret Harding and Kyle Lawson are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Margaret can be reached at 412-380-8519 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Kyle can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or email@example.com.
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