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Prosecutor says Monroeville officer not negligent in pedestrian's death

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By Margaret Harding
Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, 12:57 p.m.
 

A Monroeville police sergeant wasn't negligent when he struck and killed a pedestrian with his marked patrol car in October, the Allegheny County district attorney said on Tuesday.

“I can't find negligence, much less criminal negligence,” District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said when announcing the results of an investigation into the Oct. 3 death of Michael Barnes, 49, of Monroeville.

Zappala said Barnes had been drinking most of the day, and tests showed he had a blood-alcohol content of .384 when he walked into the four-lane Monroeville Boulevard around 7:20 p.m.

Barnes' friend told police that Barnes had finished a fifth of Jim Beam by noon, Zappala said, and was making his second trip that day to a liquor store when Sgt. Edward Lewkowicz hit him.

Lewkowicz could not be reached. Monroeville police Chief Steven Pascarella said Lewkowicz would return to duty on Wednesday from administrative leave.

The police cruiser's dash cam recorded 20 seconds of the incident before the sergeant flipped on the emergency lights. Investigators found Barnes' headphones near the scene and a CD by the metal band Slayer, “Reign in Blood,” Zappala said.

The video showed Barnes did not look to his left, Zappala said: “He's looking straight ahead.”

Lewkowicz, an 18-year veteran of the Monroeville force, 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.

Barnes' friends and family 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' children, ages 8 and 12. “I don't know; this doesn't sound right.”

Zappala said investigators learned that pedestrians routinely cross the road in that area, which has no streetlights or crosswalks near where the man was hit. Allegheny County maintains the road, but Monroeville Council was scheduled to vote on Tuesday to install a streetlight near the scene of the incident. Zappala said his office contacted the county about the road.

“I'm not sure what the solution is, but some attention must be given,” Zappala said.

Lord said the only good that could come from Barnes' death is measures 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.”

When the collision happened, Lewkowicz was not responding to an emergency. He was looking to his left, scanning the rear of businesses as part of his patrol responsibilities, Zappala said. He wasn't using his phone.

Staff writer Kyle Lawson contributed. Margaret Harding is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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