DA rules on case of pedestrian killed by police car

Liz Evans Scolforo

A well-known York-area homeless man struck and killed by a police car in East Manchester Township had appeared confused hours before his death, according to a report released Friday by the York County District Attorney's Office.

After his death was reported in the media, a woman who saw the coverage contacted police to say she  nearly struck a similarly dressed man at the same location about five hours earlier, the report states.

Raymond Updegraff died on Nov. 30, 2016, when he was struck by a police cruiser on routine patrol in East Manchester Township, police said.

Raymond Updegraff, 74, was crossing North George Street Extended in the area of  the Sunset Lane intersection, near the McDonald's restaurant, when he was struck  at 10:24 p.m. Nov. 30 by an unmarked Northeastern Regional Police car driven by Officer Scott George, authorities have said.

Updegraff, who was staying at LifePath Christian Ministries (formerly the York Rescue Mission), was pronounced dead at the scene. He died of multiple injuries, according to the York County Coroner's Office.

Police knew victim: George, 52, of Mount Wolf, was placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into the crash, which is standard procedure, Northeastern Regional Police Chief Bryan Rizzo said at the time.

Rizzo said his officers — including George — had known Updegraff for many years.

In fact, George had helped Updegraff just a few days before the fatal accident by summoning an ambulance to help Updegraff with a medical issue, according to the chief. He said George took the accident hard.

"It was difficult for him," Rizzo said.

PSP investigated: State police conducted an independent investigation into the circumstances of the crash, then turned over their findings to York County District Attorney Tom Kearney. After reviewing the findings, Kearney on Friday publicly released his memorandum report about the crash.

It states that charges of homicide by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter weren't appropriate in this case because George's actions didn't rise to the level of the legal definition of recklessness.

The officer was, however, going 48 mph in a 35 mph zone, the report notes. The lead investigator in the case noted he looked into whether “the act of traveling 13 miles per hour over the speed limit on a rainy night was a direct or likely cause of the death,” and determined "in the negative," the report states.

The report also states it was dark and rainy, with light fog conditions, and that Updegraff was wearing a black leather coat and blue jeans. There are no street lights there, according to the report.

Rescue mission: Man killed by police cruiser a 'sweet soul'

Cited for speeding: The DA's Office, after reviewing the state police report, directed state police to cite George with "driving at safe speeds," which is speeding. They did that on March 12, according to court records.

George pleaded guilty the next day and paid $129 in court costs at the office of District Judge Robert Eckenrode, according to online court records.

Rizzo said George returned to work the first week of January but remained on light duty while the investigation was ongoing. Light duty basically means working in the police station doing paperwork and other office tasks, the chief confirmed.

George returned to active duty March 13 and is back on patrol, Rizzo said.

"Our condolences to the Updegraff family for their loss," the chief said.

According to the report, Updegraff was crossing North George Street about where a Rabbit Transit bus stop is located, which is about 240 feet south of an established crosswalk. Authorities "surmised" he was walking to that bus stop, the report states.

Wipers on: George was driving south and had the unmarked car's windshield wipers on intermittent setting, which "greatly hampered" his ability to see Updegraff, the report states.

Updegraff was between 18 and 24 inches from the road's fog line when he was struck, meaning he was in George's lane of travel, according to the report.

The state trooper investigating the incident noted that he repeatedly watched the police car's dash-cam footage and said it was Updegraff's white sneakers that first became visible in the recording.

That was two seconds before impact, according to his report.

Analyses of George's work and personal cellphones, as well as the in-car computer, showed George wasn't using any of those devices at the time of the crash, according to the report, which states a blood test determined he was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Victim 'confused': The day before the fatal crash, Springettsbury Township Police Office Jennifer Kennedy spoke with Updegraff at a local car dealership, where he'd shown up acting confused.

She reported she thought he might be suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's disease, and after he declined to be taken to York Hospital she took him to the Salvation Army, where an employee there knew him, according to the report.

A local woman emailed Northeastern Regional Police saying she was driving past the spot where Updegraff was killed about 5 p.m. the day of the crash and that she had to stop suddenly to avoid hitting a man standing in the middle of the road, the report states. The woman said the man was wearing a black coat, maybe leather, and dark jeans.

'Could have been me': "(She) related that she never saw the guy until the last second," the report states. "He stood in front of her vehicle for approximately 15-20 seconds before he started to walk toward Sheetz."

The woman said she saw the man an hour later, sitting on a bench outside the Manchester Café, according to the report.

In her email, she wrote, "it very easily could have been me that night (who struck the man) instead of your officer."

In a written statement to investigators, George wrote, "The first and only time I saw the pedestrian was immediately before impact with the corner of my car."

Kind, gentle: Matt Carey, executive director of LifePath Christian Ministries, said Updegraff was homeless for many years.

“He was one of the kindest, nicest, gentlest men you’ll ever meet,” Carey said at the time.

“We have been providing Ray Updegraff a place to come for food, clothing and shelter for well over 15 years,” Carey said, adding Nov. 29 was the last time Updegraff stayed at the shelter.

“And we were always here for him,” Carey said. “I was more concerned with his well-being than with trying to change his lifestyle. We would pray with Ray, we would talk to Ray, but our biggest impact on Ray was being able to give him a warm bed, a warm meal and clothing.”

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.