North Carolina shooting: Police officer charged with manslaughter

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By David Zucchino This post has been updated, as indicated below.

September 16, 2013, 2:22 p.m.

DURHAM, N.C. — After wrecking his car early Saturday, Jonathan A. Ferrell knocked on a door in a neighborhood in Charlotte. He was apparently seeking help, according to Charlotte police.

But the early-morning knock frightened the woman who answered the door. She called 911, police responded, and Ferrell was shot 10 times and killed.

Police said initially that Officer Randall Kerrick was justified in shooting Ferrell, who police said “ran,” “charged” and “advanced” on Kerrick and two other officers. But hours later, police called the shooting “excessive.” Kerrick, 27, has been charged with voluntary manslaughter.

Ferrell, 24, a former Florida A&M University football player, was unarmed. The shooting of a young black man by a white police officer has raised questions about the police response.

“This is an all-American young man who survived a horrific accident. He’s crying for help and is showered with bullets,” the Ferrell family lawyer, Christopher Chestnut, told CNN on Monday. Chestnut called the shooting “unwarranted, irrational and inhumane.”

Police said Ferrell crashed his car in the woods, climbed out and walked about half a mile to a house about 2:30 a.m. Saturday. He began “banging on the door viciously,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe told reporters before the officer was charged.

“It was quite possible he was seeking assistance based on his accident,” Monroe said.

The woman who answered the knock thought she was about to be robbed and called 911, police said. Ferrell stayed outside and “continued to attempt to gain the attention of the homeowner,” a police statement said.

Monroe said Ferrell did not threaten the woman. He said he did not know the cause of Ferrell’s auto accident.

“The evidence revealed that Mr. Ferrell did advance on Officer Kerrick and the investigation showed that the subsequent shooting of Mr. Ferrell was excessive,” police said in a statement over the weekend. “Our investigation has shown that Officer Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during the encounter.”

Police called the incident “unfortunate.”

Two other officers on the scene did not fire their weapons. Officer Thornell Little tried to subdue Ferrell with a Taser before 12 shots were fired, 10 of which struck Ferrell, police said.

All three officers were put on paid administrative leave pending an investigation, police said.

Kerrick, who joined the Police Department in April 2011, was released late Saturday after posting $50,000 bail. Under North Carolina law, voluntary manslaughter involves killing without malice while using “excessive force.”

Monroe told reporters that Kerrick is “pretty shook up. He’s devastated.”

Ferrell’s mother, Georgia Ferrell, described her son as “a very happy, outgoing person.” She told CNN he called her every day before leaving for work and told her Friday that he planned to go out after work that night.

Ferrell recently moved to Charlotte from Florida and worked two jobs, at a Best Buy store and a local department store. He had no criminal record.

“It’s with heavy hearts and significant regrets it’s come to this,” said Monroe, the police chief. “Our hearts go out to the Ferrell family and many members of the [Police Department] family. This is never something easy.”

The case will be handled by the Mecklenburg County district attorney’s office. “In every case, the district attorney’s office evaluates the evidence available and works to achieve a fair and just outcome,” the office said in a statement.

Chestnut, the family lawyer, thanked the Police Department for the charges against Kerrick. But he said he would continue to press police officials for answers.

“Why was this officer even with a badge and having a gun?” Chestnut said on CNN.,0,6725026.story