Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

Man who hit Angela Burke charged with manslaughter

Posted by on January 6th, 2011 at 10:23 am

Caleb Pruitt’s booking photo
taken on 12/15/10.

After two weeks of testimony, a Multnomah County grand jury has upgraded the charges against Caleb Pruitt, the 28-year old man who struck and killed Angela Burke with his car as she attempted to cross SW Barbur Boulevard on December 15th.

Pruitt was arrested that night and booked on charges of Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants and Criminally Negligent Homicide. According to a witness, Pruitt had been drinking, was driving very fast and was unable to negotiate a sweeping corner on Barbur prior to the collision.

During the Grand Jury process, the Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division’s Major Crash Team worked to upgrade those charges because they felt like Criminally Negligent Homicide — which could result only in probation — did not adequately reflect the severity of Pruitt’s actions.

In large part due to the testimony of the PPB’s Major Crash Team, evidence they gleaned from the scene, and their of analysis of what happened that night, Pruitt is now charged with the following:

  • Manslaughter II
  • Criminally Negligent Homicide
  • DUII-alcohol
  • Reckless Driving
  • Recklessly Endangering Another Person (three counts, there were two people in Pruitt’s car)

I contacted Sgt. Todd Davis of the Traffic Division after the charges were announced. He said he is “pleased with these charges.” He also added, via an email, that,

“The Major Crash team collectively and Officer Barry Busse in particular, worked incredibly hard on this case. It was due to his effort and analysis that we were able to go to Grand Jury and get the charges upgraded to what we have now. I feel a lot better now that we have a Manslaughter charge on the table. This crash and fatality was due solely to Mr. Pruitt’s reckless driving and impairment.”

Manslaughter 2 is a Measure 11 crime, which means that if Pruitt is convicted, he will receive a minimum prison sentence of 75 months.

— Read our full coverage of this story here.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

49
Leave a Reply

avatar
25 Comment threads
24 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
34 Comment authors
FUluckykwwadamPete Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Ethan
Guest
Ethan

Good to hear. We’re lucky he does not own a ski resort or work for an investment bank.

Stig
Guest
Stig

Criminally Negligent Homicide would have meant just probation? A driver’s license really is a license to kill so long as you stay off the sauce.

PomPilot
Guest
PomPilot

Looks like the grand jury felt the authorities had enough evidence to support adding a more severe charge. Let’s hope the DA’s office isn’t willing to let the Man-2 charge get plea bargained out of the picture.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Probably playing no small part in the changing to a more serious charge: his back seat passenger (reported on in an earlier bikeportland story) testifying that Pruitt appeared to deliberately bring the car’s acceleration to a point where his ability to control the car was jeopardized, supported by Pruitt actually speaking aloud to that effect, to his passengers in the car.

Without the back seat passenger’s testimony, I wonder if the Grand Jury could have brought the more serious charge.

jocko
Guest
jocko

Classic case where this guy should never legally drive again.

Jackattak
Guest
Jackattak

Nothing will bring Ms. Burke back but I hope she can rest peacefully knowing that this disgusting excuse for a human being will rot in FFYITA prison for at least six years (if convicted, of course).

If I were granted one wish today it would be for a maximum Man-2 conviction and sentence for this deplorable waste of oxygen.

Actually scratch that. It would be for five minutes alone with the guy in a locked room. I have faith in the jury to get their job done.

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

Good news, but why, in so many instances where vulnerable road users are assaulted by drivers and initially no charges are pursued, are we told by the police they are waiting to cite the driver until they complete their investigation? In the past we have been told a premature lesser citation may jeopardize subsequent charges – obviously not, based on this incident. And unfortunately the media only reports that someone was hit, the driver was not cited, and the public assumes the bike rider or pedestrian was at fault. And then the media never revisit the case when the driver is later cited for infractions or crimes.

Waltzing Matilda
Guest
Waltzing Matilda

People who kill someone while driving drunk should be charged with MURDER. He made choices. He first made the choice to get drunk. Then, he made the choice to drive – knowing someone could get killed. North Carolina and California have both successfully gotten murder charges against drunk drivers. Why not Oregon?

Vladislav Davidzon
Guest

Sigh. What exactly is the result of this punishment? We’ve just effectively created another victim to this incident, without any benefit to public safety.

Numerous studies have shown that not only does punishment have very little impact on other people’s actions, the average re-incarceration rates generally do not speak well of the impact on the offender’s behavior.

The people with primary responsibility for this accident are the ones who designed the road and the vehicle involved; the people involved are all ultimately victims of horrible, bad design. All of them are not only not being punished, they’ve still got their cushy jobs.

We need laws that punish engineers who design bad roads and bad cars. Bad design shouldn’t just be not tolerated, it needs to be punished criminally when the designer has knowledge that the result of their work is liable to kill people.

We obviously can’t just let guys like this walk after killing an innocent by-stander, but the truth of the matter is that we’re not solving the long-term problem until we go after people who design products that maim and injure people — namely badly designed roads and cars.

adam
Guest
adam

the more I think about this, the more I hope Mr Pruitt is released on his own and that I know about the details of his “release” he will likely be safer in the state pen.

adam
Guest
adam

stop killing my friends, homie

PoPo
Guest

The situation you describe involves the police holding off on issuing citations for INFRACTIONS that the driver may have committed, such as speeding or fail to obey a traffic control device. Infractions are only punishable by a fine–no jail time is possible. The charges listed in this article are all CRIMES, which are punishable by fines AND/OR jail time. The DA may add additional CRIME charges if additional, supporting evidence is found. That appears to be what has happened here.

The police hesitate to issue citations for INFRACTIONS until after the prosecution has adjudicated any CRIMES to be charged, as there is a concern that an argument might be made by the defense that if a driver pleas guilty to traffic INFRACTION that results from his/her poor driving and quickly pays the fine, he/she may be immune from future prosecution of CRIMES committed at the same time via the constitutional prohibition of being tried twice for the same crime (AKA double jeopardy).

Indeed, it is frustrating that the media often does not follow up on these events.

9watts
Guest
9watts

There is no doubt that there must be consequences for the driver in cases like this. However the consequences need to be productive in nature — and throwing people behind bars does nothing for either public safety or the long-term behavior individual involved.
Agreed. There are some really interesting & promising alternatives out there.

http://vorp.com/
Victim-Offender Mediation Programs (VOMP), also known as Victim-Offender Reconciliation Programs (VORP) is a restorative justice approach that bring offenders face-to-face with the victims of their crimes with the assistance of a trained mediator, usually a community volunteer. Crime is personalized as offenders learn the human consequences of their actions, and victims (who may be ignored by the criminal justice system) have the opportunity to speak their minds and their feelings to the one who most ought to hear them, contributing to the healing process of the victim.

TonyT
Guest
Tonyt

Okay, that was a bit harsh, but seriously, we’re not talking about a driver who was driving cautiously and hit a pedestrian at an ill-lit crosswalk. This guy was plastered and hauling a**. He is in NO WAY a victim. This is utterly insulting to the actual victim.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Tonyt – I’m not sure if you were referring to the post which appears above yours (this new system of organizing comments is not terribly intuitive), but if you were, then I encourage you to read a bit more carefully. The reconciliation process above is intended to occur between the VICTIM and the OFFENDER. In this case, the victim(s) would of course be understood to be Angela’s family, first and foremost.
Nowhere is it stated or implied that the drunk driver in this case is or would be considered a victim.

random rider
Guest
random rider

While I am pleased by the severity of the charges brought against him, I have to admit that I am pessimistic that he will be convicted of them. Charging him with a Measure 11 crime will make his lawyer a lot more willing to plead guilty to a lesser charge, possibly much lesser. The prosecutor is happy because they get a conviction without leaving it up to the uncertainty of a jury trial and the offender is happy because he avoids a more serious conviction and sentence.

I hate to be so pessimistic, but I will be extremely surprised if he winds up with manslaughter II on his record.

soggy
Guest
soggy

Just curious, does anyone remember what his BAC was?

Rebecca
Guest
Rebecca

Thanks to Officer Busse for working to give this case the weight it deserves. It would have been an insult to see this horrible crime go with just a slap on the wrist to such a reckless, selfish man. He robbed a young woman of the rest of her life.

If it is true that fines and incarceration have little effect on recidivism rates, then in the interest of public safety it seems wise to prohibit a convicted drunk driver who injures, maims, or kills from ever driving again.

Barney
Guest
Barney

I don’t see this specific event as connected to infrastructure, but drunk driving as a whole could be lessened if Trimet stayed open later than the bars. If alcohol consumption is such a boon to this city’s economy, then the city should find the money to give the drunks cheap rides home. Every jerk who drives drunk is responsible for their own actions, but clearly the drunk-driving-jerk phenomenon isn’t going away easily, so we need to create alternatives.

Hart Noecker
Guest

I kinda agree with some of the anti-incarceration comments. Best punishment possible: he spends the rest of his life without a drivers license.

BURR
Guest
BURR

yeah, no murderer deserves jail time.

how about jail time plus a lifetime of not driving?

BTW, it’s pretty easy to drive without a license, as the saying goes, just do it

drew
Guest
drew

I also think this man who kills people with his car should never drive again. And spend time trying to compensate the victims family; which could take the place of jail time perhaps.

But we live in a social construct that allows people to slaughter each other with an automobile, usually with little consequence. Some day far into the future people will be slack-jawed amazed at the brutality on our roads that we live with. I hope I live to see that day.

Meanwhile, high gas prices will return eventually. This will save many thousands of people in the US from getting smashed by cars each year, although causing major economic hardship.

Please resist calling this tragedy an “accident”. there is nothing accidental about getting drunk and/or driving recklessly.

esther c
Guest
esther c

I think anyone that wants to drive again after doing something like this is demonstrating that they don’t understand the horror of what they have done.

This was a horrid drunken driving preventable inexcusable words fail me type of homicide.

I think if I killed someone even less heinously with my car, stone cold sober but made a mistake I would never be able to drive again.

JR
Guest
JR

Unfortunately, nothing will bring Angela back..

kww
Guest
kww

As usual the police did their job, I am just worried about the DA accepting another plea bargain and this guy ends up serving weeks in jail, instead of years.

Jonathan, will we soon find out WHO the DA is on the case, so we can let them know the bicycle community’s interest in the case?