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Medford employee won't be charged in pedestrian death

Prosecutors have ruled out recklessness and negligence on the part of a Medford parks employee whose vehicle killed a pedestrian last month.

John Warren Whitlock was not impaired or distracted the night he struck Michael Bates, 57, just after 10 p.m. Nov. 3 on Prune Street near Columbus Avenue, according to a release issued by the Jackson County District Attorney's office Thursday. Whitlock had been en route to return a city vehicle at the time of the crash.

Although the district attorney's office ruled out criminal conduct, Medford police will consider a possible citation of failing to yield at a crosswalk.

Surveillance footage from the nearby Woodland Heights Market showed Bates had been wearing dark clothing, including gray shoes, dark pants and a gray jacket layered on top of another black jacket with some orange trim. The weather was rainy that night, witnesses reported.

Whitlock had been northbound on Columbus to return the vehicle after locking restroom doors at U.S. Cellular Park.

That night, Bates had been scanning to cross Columbus when a large SUV headed southbound stopped for him. The glare from the SUV's headlights made it hard for Whitlock to see Bates.

Bates suffered severe head injuries after he rolled onto and off the hood, before coming to a rest 55 feet from the crosswalk. He was rushed to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center and spent 17 days in an intensive care unit before succumbing to his injuries Nov. 20.

The market surveillance video showed no sign of speed being a factor in the crash. Whitlock estimated he was driving just slightly below the posted 35 MPH speed limit.

Whitlock underwent a drug test at the scene, which ruled out alcohol and controlled substance impairment. Phone usage or other distractions were also ruled out.

A Medford police traffic team conducted several reenactments at the intersection Nov. 28 using the vehicle. An officer noted that light reflected on the wet roadway from a similar large SUV and the involved vehicle made a pedestrian reenactor extremely difficult to see.

"The officer stated even when he was looking for the actor the only thing he would see was the actor's shoes until the vehicle was nearly in the crosswalk," according to the release.