By Cash Michaels
Special from to the NNPA from The Carolinian
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP says the tragic death of an unarmed Black man at the hands of a White Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer nearly two weeks ago was not voluntary manslaughter as formally charged, but “murder.”
Rev. Kojo Nantambu, chapter president, said, “This [police officer], to me, executed this young man, for whatever reason. To me, it had to be rage, or hatred or something that clicked in this [officer]…you’re trained to deal with stressful situations.
When later asked if the charge of voluntary manslaughter filed against the White officer should have been stronger, Nantambu replied, “Yes, this was murder. No doubt about it, this was murder.”
No doubt others in Charlotte’s Black community share Nantambu’s assessment of what happened to Jonathan A. Ferrell, the 24-year-old former Florida A&M University football player fatally shot by CMPD police in the early morning hours of Sept. 14.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Randall Kerrick reportedly fired 12 shots at Ferrell as he ran towards him following a serious traffic accident, fatally hitting him 10 times. The police were called by a startled woman after Ferrell banged on the door of her home seeking help at 2:30 that morning.
Kerrick, who has been with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) since March 2010, was charged with voluntary manslaughter, a felony, after a criminal and departmental investigation determined that he used excessive force in the incident.
Investigators consulted with the Mecklenburg District Attorney’s office before charging Kerrick. Prosecutors will review the case, however, before taking it to a grand jury for possible indictments.
WBT-TV in Charlotte reports that Kerrick was briefly suspended for a day last December by the police department for unknown reasons. Before becoming a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer, Kerrick reportedly worked as an animal control officer, the TV station reported.
Sources told another television station, WSOC-TV, that video from a patrol car dashcam clearly showed not only showed that Ferrell was unarmed, but even hiked his pants to show he had no weapons.
Ferrell’s fatal shooting took place out of camera range.
“You took a piece of my heart that I can never put back,” Ferrell’s grieving mother, Georgia Ferrell, told reporters Monday while clutching her son’s favorite Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal from his early childhood. She said she never thought she would ever have to bury her son.
Attorney Chris Chestnut, the Florida-based lawyer representing the Ferrell family, acknowledged the speed with which the Charlotte Police Department charged one of its own with manslaughter, but still raised questions about police training, and how Ferrell’s race may have played a role in the tragic outcome.
“The officer is White [and] Mr. Ferrell is Black,” Chestnut reminded reporters. “This might be more of a reflection of where we are as a country.”
According to published accounts, three CMPD police officers answered the “breaking and entering” 911 call that the woman, whose home Ferrell repeatedly knocked on the door on after his car ran off the road, crashing into some trees.
Last week, CMPD made that 17-minute 911 call public, and it’s clear that the woman, who tells the police dispatcher that she has a “sleeping child “ in the home, believes that Ferrell is trying to break in because of his constant pounding.
As the officers reportedly approached Ferrell on Reedy Creek Road, he ran towards them, apparently gratified to see that help had arrived.
The story becomes murky then, because one officer allegedly shot Ferrell with a taser, but reportedly missed. That was followed by Kerrick discharging his weapon 12 times, hitting Ferrell 10 times before he fell to the ground. Kerrick was the only officer to fire his sidearm.
“The evidence revealed that Mr. Ferrell did advance on Officer Kerrick and the investigation showed that the subsequent shooting of Mr. Ferrell was excessive,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said in a statement Saturday. “Our investigation has shown that Officer Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter.”
A police incident report reveals that Kerrick alleged that he was “assaulted,” though it doesn’t state by whom, and suffered “minor injuries.” He refused medical treatment, however.
Officer Kerrick turned himself in to authorities after he was charged. He is free on $50,000 bond. All three CMPD officers involved have been placed on paid leave. There have been six other killings by CMPD officers just this year.
Jonathan Ferrell played safety for the FAMU Rattlers in 2009 and 2010 football seasons. His family described him as a “good” young man who had moved to North Carolina in February to start a new life. He worked two jobs and was engaged to be married. He had no criminal record in North Carolina, and a 2011 misdemeanor charge in Florida had been dismissed. Had he lived, Ferrell would have turned 25 next month.
His mother, Georgia Ferrell, said , “I truly forgive him. I pray for him. And I pray that he gets off the police force.”
Attorney Chestnut was noncommittal on whether the Ferrell family would be suing the Charlotte Police Dept.
On Tuesday, Officer Kerrick, 27, was scheduled to make his first court appearance on the voluntary manslaughter charge, but did not attend. Instead, attorneys with the Fraternal Order of Police appeared on behalf of the officer, saying that when all of the evidence is considered, the court and the public will see that Kerick “did nothing wrong.”
In fact one of Kerrick’s attorneys, Michael Greene, an African American, told reporters afterwards that the officer’s actions “were justified.”
Kerrick’s next court date is Oct. 7 for a probable cause hearing. That’s when it will be clearer whether prosecutors intend to stay with the voluntary manslaughter charge, raise it to murder, or dismiss the charge altogether.
The Ferrell family attorney, Chris Chestnut, said that he has reviewed the video from the CMPD patrol car dashcam. Based on what he saw, he says, the charge should be raised to murder.
“That is murder, cold blooded, badge no badge, that’s murder,” Chestnut said after he, and the Ferrell family, viewed the video. He said for them, “It is completely devastating.”