ST. JOSEPH, Mich. — A former Benton Township police officer was sentenced for hitting and killing a woman with his police cruiser last September. He was driving 60mph with no lights and no sirens.
"You think that you are above the law," said Judge Dennis Wiley to Eugene Anderson. "And I'm telling you right now, as a police officer, you’re not above the law."
Anderson was sentenced to 60 days in jail and $1,700 in fines.
Anderson was convicted of a Moving Violation Causing Death for the September 20th incident that killed Kimberly Bedford, 48. Anderson said in court he was driving fast to get to the scene of a domestic disturbance report. Judge Wiley said he responded to the dispatcher's report after chatting on the phone.
"As a matter of fact, there was a second call made by the victims or whoever indicating is a police officer going to come," said Wiley. "And we establish that the perpetrator was not on the premises. You sat in your car, said 'Oh I'll answer up.' Sat there for three minutes, talking on the phone to somebody whoever it was. And then you get in your car.'
Wiley said Anderson drove thirty miles over the speed limit on Pipestone Avenue. He hit Bedford near Rose Street.
"And interestingly enough a young man who was driving in the opposite direction, she crossed right in front of him and he was able to stop his vehicle," said Wiley. "If you were in such a big hurry to get to wherever it was you thought you had to go, you should’ve put your lights on."
But dashcam video shows he did not have his lights on, nor the sirens. It shows Bedford crossing Pipestone Road when she was struck by the officer's cruiser. Anderson is heard immediately calling for emergency services and back up to arrive at the scene.
After exiting the vehicle, the officer was unable to locate Bedford. For about 15 minutes, Officer Anderson questioned where the woman was and asked witnesses what they saw. Bedford's shoe and purse were found, but a search of the immediate area came up empty. Eventually, Officer Anderson locates the woman's body in the backseat of his cruiser. It appears her body had flown over the vehicle after the impact, before crashing down through the back window.
Anderson and his attorney Martin Kirk pointed out that Bedford was intoxicated and may not have been aware of her surroundings. They also suggested that prior to her death she made comments that may have been suicidal. Toxicology reports later showed she did have alcohol in her system, placing her above the legal limit for driving.
"Yes her level of intoxication was extremely high but you take the victims as they are," said Wiley. "The jury found that your behavior was more excessive than hers. That's the bottom line."
Prosecutor Michael Sepic said he felt Anderson was not remorseful about what happened. He played an interview in which Anderson tells ABC 57 in South Bend that he has no regrets. He said that life is "precious" but shouldn't regret something he was trained to do.
"The fact of the matter is that your behavior, as you said 'a human life is precious,' that woman did not deserve to die," said Wiley. "Except for your excessive speed, your being in a big hurry and as you’ve just indicated, you have no regrets for not complying with the law."