I have a 2015 Chrysler 200 sport with the as mentioned "unconventional lever" shifter. As far as i could have seen... this really shouldn't have been an issue with how the electonic ebrake/parking brake system is set up now. (his vehicle must have the regular kind of manually actuated parking brake system... or a system that needs software update to alter it's behaviour.)
the activation system I have consists of a toggle switch that you can pull up to activate, or push down into the panel to deactivate. (similar to newer power window switches)
with my car, if the door is opened and the shift lever is in anything but park, (reverse, neutral, drive, or sport mode) the emergency park brake AUTOMATICALLY activates as soon as the door is opened. i've never tried this at speed, but if you're rolling and you open the door it does stop you.
if the door is opened first and the lever is actuated from park, the parking brake will AUTOMATICALLY activate.
it can be manually overridden again after it activates. (for instance if you are trying to look out under the door to line up with some car ramps) simply push the button down.
other features of said parking brake include... if it's activated manually while in drive mode, it will lock the brakes down, but will automatically deactivate when you press on the gas. (i assume for steep hill starts)
For burnout mode, (I believe only available on the sport model) you have to pull and hold up the switch for the brake. Start your burnout and release the switch lever (only need to hold the first few seconds) then the rear brakes will stay on until you depress the switch at which time the brakes release.
as for the gear selection system, Mine is a interlocked detent rotary switch. not an up down type selection. you must have the brake applied to rotate the switch from park. each gear selection has it's own detent.
once into the "moving" gears they can be freely switched between the gears, reverse.. neutral.. drive without pressing the brake. vehicle movement is monitored and if the speed is too high to shift (for instance drive to reverse while still moving) the selector WILL move there, but the transmission will not shift to the selected gear to prevent damage. if this interlock has activated you must stop, shift to park and then back to gear again.
as it sits...it's a good system. it truly is, really, idiot proof.
I believe quite honestly his death could have been prevented with a simple system update. Period.
If you don't know, you can simply call the dealership service department anytime and give them your VIN... they will tell you over the phone if you have outstanding recalls that need to be done. recalls regardless of age are done free of charge. I just got a recall done for a 2008 nissan with like 250,000 on it for a suspension spring issue. replaced both front springs and didn't cost me a penny.
so do it. do it. do it now. don't get your ass run over. call and find out if you have a recall. get it fixed before it kills you.