A police officer who crashed into a car while rushing to assist another officer with a DWI suspect was indicted Friday on a charge of manslaughter.
Officer Christopher Bolling was allegedly going almost double the posted speed limit of 45 mph — without emergency lights or sirens activated — when he struck the rear passenger side of a Toyota Camry driven by 77-year-old Billie “Joe” Addington on Aug. 20, 2012.
Addington, a retired Baptist minister, had been attempting to pull into the apartment complex where he lived in the 5600 block of Azle Avenue when the collision occurred shortly after 11 p.m.
He died Nov. 1, 2012, and the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office ruled his death an accident, caused by complications of multiple traumatic injuries he had suffered in the wreck.
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Bolling, 30, surrendered on a warrant Friday afternoon at the Tarrant County Jail and was immediately released upon posting a $7,500 bond. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison.
Jim Lane, Bolling’s defense attorney, said he was surprised by the grand jury’s decision.
“Officer Bolling is not guilty of manslaughter,” Lane said. “He’s not guilty of any crime.”
Lane said Bolling was rushing to try to intercept a suspected DWI driver who was being followed by an off-duty Hurst officer. The Hurst officer, Lane said, had reported to dispatchers that the suspected drunken driver had almost hit another car head-on.
“He was trying to get there as fast as he could to stop a possible head-on collision by a suspected drunk driver,” Lane said. “Of course he’s been remorseful and devastated since the accident occurred, but that’s what he was doing. We look forward to our day in court.”
Police officials said the suspected DWI driver was stopped by other officers but released without arrest.
Randy Addington, the oldest of Addington’s three children, expressed mixed feelings about the indictment.
“I’m sad on one hand because it affects the life of another human being but I do believe the grand jury got it right,” he said.
“I understand the officer was responding to a potential drunk driver, but officers take an oath to protect and serve and going 86 mph in a 45 mph is excessive. That is breaking the law,” Randy Addington said. “… If he had not been going that speed he was going, my dad would have probably been alive today. Is he a danger? Obviously he was a danger to my dad and potentially could be a danger to someone else.”
“For that, I believe indicting him and him potentially losing his job is probably the right thing to happen,” he said.
Following his indictment, Bolling was placed on restricted duty Friday, prohibited from carrying his weapon or badge. A decision on his future with the police department is expected next week.
‘He was walking around’
According to a Fort Worth police accident report, Bolling had been northbound on Azle Avenue in northwest Fort Worth when he struck Addington’s Camry, which had been eastbound at the median crossover, attempting to pull into the Lindberg Parc Senior Apartments.
Fort Worth police officials said Friday that a preliminary report indicated that Addington had failed to yield the right of way. But upon further review, the detective determined Bolling had been traveling at a high rate of speed, prompting a special investigation.
A report narrative, updated by investigators Dec. 12, 2012, states that Bolling was traveling above the posted speed limit of 45 mph and, due to the topography of the roadway, the drivers “most likely did not see each other,” the report states.
“Based on this evidence, it is my opinion that unit 1 [the patrol car] was traveling at a speed greater than that was reasonable and prudent for the conditions then existing,” the report by traffic investigator R.L. Wangler states.
Lane disputes that the wreck caused Addington’s death.
“We obviously don’t agree that the accident was a contributing factor to his final death,” Lane said. “Officer Bolling talked with him at length that night. He was walking around.”
Though unaware about claims that his father was walking around after the wreck, Randy Addington said his father was hospitalized that night and “never went home.”
He said his father suffered multiple fractures of the pelvis, leaving him unable to bear weight for 12 weeks.
“Your body starts reacting to not being able to be mobile and about and eventually that did him in,” Randy Addington said.
In the last few weeks of his life, Randy Addington said his father had to undergo dialysis four hours a day, every day.
“They were taking close to 20 pounds of fluid off him every day,” Randy Addington said. “He didn’t have any kidney problems or kidney disabilities before the accident.”
Randy Addington said his father had pastored several churches locally, including in Fort worth and Saginaw, as well as a church in west Texas and in Colorado.
He described his father a good, very out-going and personable man whose faith was of the utmost importance to him.
“If you sent him to Walmart for a loaf of bread, you could plan on him being gone an hour because he loved to talk to people,” Randy Addington said. “Even during his hospital stay … he didn’t request, he demanded that nurses and doctors, when they came in the room, prayed with him before they would leave. His faith wasn’t damaged in his accident, I can tell you that.”
Personal interest in DWI enforcement
Bolling was commissioned as a Fort Worth officer in February 2009 and assigned to the west patrol division.
He is a Navy veteran who is married with a 10-month-old son, Lane said.
Lane said Bolling actually had the day of the wreck off but was working an overtime DWI assignment for the department.
“His wife’s family had a death from a DWI. That’s why he took particular interest in working [DWIs],” Lane said. “He had a very big interest in trying to curb DWIs in Tarrant County.”
Police officials said Friday that Bolling had been placed on a “limited duty status” during the administrative investigation, which was extended until after the grand jury review.
“The administrative case will be reviewed early next week,” the department stated in a press release issued Friday afternoon. “At that time the Chief will make a final decision on the employment status.”
‘My father lost his life’
In October, the Fort Worth City Council approved paying Addington’s relatives a settlement of $250,000 after they filed a claim with the city.
“Approval of this settlement should not be construed as an admission of liability by the City of Fort Worth, any liability in this matter being, in fact, expressly denied,” states the council agenda document about the settlement. “This settlement is entered into only to avoid further time-consuming and costly litigation.”
Randy Addington said he has family members who work for area police departments, including Fort Worth, and a brother in the Fort Worth Fire Department.
“We certainly respect the job that those people do, putting their lives on the line everyday, protecting the community,” Randy Addington. “With that being said … no one told him to drive at that rate of speed. He made that decision on his own. I believe he deserves to be held accountable for that.”
“Our family is a family of faith. Part of our faith is to forgive,” he said. “I don’t believe this officer set out to kill anyone that day when he went to work. I think he made a gross error in judgment and, as a result of that, my father lost his life.”