Girl, 12, killed by rolling SUV; Father charged with DUI

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PITTSBURGH —

Authorities said a Pittsburgh man has been charged with drunken driving after his vehicle rolled over his 12-year-old daughter Sunday night in Stanton Heights, killing her.

Richard Benton, 53, was in custody awaiting arraignment Monday after police said he refused a breath test following the accident that killed Shamera Harris.

Investigators said Harris' mother, Carla Harris, and brother were also in the vehicle when Benton dropped off the girl's friend after a movie.

“This is a situation where they were bringing her to the location to take pictures,” Pittsburgh police Sgt. Tom Huberin said.

According to police, Benton told them he thought the sport-utility vehicle was in park before it rolled over the girl who had gotten out of the vehicle to take some pictures about 8 p.m. Sunday.

“She got out and went behind the vehicle. That’s when it went out of gear and went over top of her,” Huberin said.

Authorities said the SUV dragged the girl about 50 feet before striking a tree. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

"He thought the vehicle was in park. In fact, it must have been out of gear and went over her, dragging her down the hill and then crashing into a yard,” Huberin said.

According to the criminal complaint, Harris’ mother saw everything and tried to save her daughter’s life by giving her CPR.

“A witness told me a paramedic was working on her hard trying to revive her, and they weren’t able to,” neighbor Willie Phifer said. “So it’s sad. I just feel so bad and you never know what can happen.”

Police said Benton smelled of alcohol and slurred his words.

Channel 11’s Dave Bondy reported that authorities will inspect Benton’s vehicle to see if the brakes had gone bad.

Harris told Channel 11’s Timyka Artist on Monday that she has not slept in the past 24 hours after she lost her only child.

“God, they said I couldn’t have kids. He blessed me with her when I was 40. She’s gone, she’s gone. My baby’s gone,” said Harris.

Harris said she lost her best friend and would never have intentionally put her daughter in harm’s way. 

“If I would've known he was drinking, I have my own vehicle. I would have gotten her myself,” said Harris. “He took our daughter. I'll never forgive him for that.”

Benton was unavailable for comment on Monday.

Pittsburgh Public Schools spokeswoman Ebony Pugh released the following statement Monday:

“We are deeply saddened by the painful loss of Pittsburgh Public Schools student Shamera Harris. A 6th grader and member of the Pittsburgh Obama 6-12 school community, Shamera passed away Sunday, February 23, 2014, as the result of a tragic accident that took place in the Stanton Heights area of the city. 

“New to the school this year, Shamera's teachers describe her as a quiet, pleasant young lady, who always followed the rules in every one of her classrooms.    

“We care a great deal about the health and wellness of all of our students.  Our Student Assistance Program (SAP) providers as well as Central Office staff will be on hand at the school tomorrow to assist students and staff as they try to deal with this tragic situation.  Pittsburgh Obama is closed today as the result of a power outage.”