Heights police officer pleads not guilty to felony charge in fatal crash

Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — Police officer Larry Little, 32, faces 15 years in prison if convicted of reckless driving causing death after deadly a Jan. 2 vehicle crash on the city’s border with Allen Park.

Little pleaded not guilty to the one charge during his arraignment in front of 23rd District Court Judge Joseph Slaven on Nov. 13. His personal bond remains at $10,000.

Wayne County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Penny said Little’s lights and sirens were not activated when the police officer approached and went through the intersection at Van Born and Pelham roads.

“The data recorder on officer Little’s vehicle reflects that he was doing approximately 81 miles an hour about three seconds before impact and he was also 100 percent on the accelerator two seconds before impact,” Penny said. “He began breaking a second and a half before impact and I think brought down to approximately 64 miles an hour.”

A probable cause hearing is scheduled for Nov. 20 and a preliminary examination of the evidence against Little is scheduled for Nov. 27 in 23rd District Court.

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office announced the new felony charge of reckless driving causing death on Nov. 8, which was changed from the previous misdemeanor charge of moving violation causing death. The misdemeanor charge was dismissed on Nov. 13.

Little is on paid administrative leave from the Dearborn Heights Police Department since the initial misdemeanor charge on July 24. Little will remain on that leave until the case is completed.

It was in September that because the police vehicle was running without the lights and siren at the time of the crash, the case “should be assessed under a reckless standard rather than negligence standard,” according to the prosecutor’s press release.

The seven-month investigation was started by the Allen Park Police Department and then turned over to the Michigan State Police Special Investigation Division. It was determined that at the time of the crash, emergency lights of the police patrol vehicle were not activated.

The press release also said Little was on duty while driving the marked patrol vehicle “at a high rate of speed in a 40 mile per hour zone.”

The crash occurred just before 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 2 when the Dearborn Heights patrol Ford Explorer was traveling east on Van Born Road attempting to catch up to another vehicle for a traffic stop.

As police officers continued to follow the vehicle they turned onto Pelham Road where they struck a Lexus ES 350 traveling west on Van Born.

Timothy Turner, of Wixom was driving the Lexus and making a left turn from Van Born onto southbound Pelham while on his way to work.

The two police officers — including Little — and Turner were extricated from their vehicles by emergency responders and taken to a local hospital.

Turner was listed in critical condition before he died Jan. 8. Wayne County Spokesman Lloyd Jackson said Turner died from the injuries and complications as a result of the collision.

Both officers were treated for their minor injuries and released from the hospital.

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)