Durham Officer Faces Charges In Teenager's Death
Posted July 28, 2003 5:24 a.m. EDT
DURHAM, N.C. — Prosecutors charged a Durham police officer in connection with an crash that killed a 17-year-old teenager.
Durham police officer Alfred Rodriguez has been charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle in connection with the death of Matthew West.
West was seriously injured last week when he was ejected from a Jeep at the intersection of Vickers Avenue and Morehead Avenue. Authorities say Rodriguez, who was not on an emergency call at the time, failed to stop at a flashing red light at the intersection.
Authorities say Rodriguez underwent a drug test and there were no signs of drugs or alcohol in his system.
West had been in critical condition in a medically-induced coma, but his parents decided to remove him from life support Sunday night. One day after West's death, his family discussed his life.
"Matthew has always been a clown. He has always had a good thing to say about everybody," said Robin Smith, Matthew's mother.
"We are trying to celebrate the things that we can take with us from Matthew's positive attitude and the love that he had fed around the community," said Adrian West, Matthew's father.
Chief Steve Chalmers, of the Durham Police Department, said Rodriguez is distraught over the incident.
"He is extremely devastated by this incident, and certainly as he spoke to me today, if there was anything that he could do to go back and change what has happened, he would do that," said Chief Steve Chalmers, of the Durham Police Department.
"Unfortunately, it happened and we can't take that away or make him feel any better about this. We are going to spend the rest of our lives having to help his friends understand what has happened," Smith said.
If convicted of the misdemeanor death by vehicle charge, Rodriguez would automatically lose his job. Even if he is not convicted, Rodriguez may face some kind of disciplinary action. He is currently on administrative duty.
Authorities say West was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, but that has no bearing as to the charges against Rodriguez.
West's family has set up a foundation in his name. The Matthew Paul West Foundation will benefit community organizations that were a part of his life. West was a counselor at Camp Kanata and was active in Young Life.
Donations can be made to:
Matthew Paul West Foundation 6303 Acorn Ridge Trail Hillsborough, N.C. 27278
West will be laid to rest 3 p.m. Wednesday. Services are planned for Duke Chapel.