A Look At The Randall Kerrick Case
Jury selection begins today in the trial of Randall Kerrick, the former CMPD police officer accused of shooting and killing an unarmed black man nearly two years ago. In May, the city settled a lawsuit, filed by the victim’s family, for $2.25 million.
At around 2 a.m. on Sept. 14, 2013, a 911 dispatcher answered a call from east Charlotte.
A frantic-sounding woman told the dispatcher that she needed help because someone was knocking on her door. She said that initially, she thought the person was her husband. But when she opened the door, she saw 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell standing there, and assumed the worst.
“There's a guy breaking in my front door,” the woman told the 911 dispatcher.
Ferrell, an aspiring engineer, had been involved in an accident nearby. Police believe he was seeking help when he knocked on the home's door. Three officers responded to the 911 call. One of them was Randall Kerrick, a three-year CMPD officer. When police arrived, Ferrell was no longer near the home and ran toward the officers. Kerrick fired 12 shots. Ten hit the unarmed Ferrell and killed him. The other officers didn’t fire a shot.
Kerrick was arrested later that day on a charge of voluntary manslaughter. Christopher Chestnut, Ferrell's family's attorney described the shooting as unjustified.
“He had no weapon, he was not erratic, he was not aggressive, he was no threat at all to the officers as was reflected by the fact that the two officers flanking him didn't fire one shot, yet Kerrick fired 12,” Chestnut said.
In January 2014, a grand jury declined to indict Kerrick. Many were outraged. There was a protest that night. Former Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP President Kojo Nantambu was one of the speakers.
“The least you can say is something is wrong with the system we live in. Something is wrong when a man can be shot 12 times and nothing happens, something is wrong in this country,” Nantambu said.
A week later, a different grand jury indicted Kerrick and charged him with voluntary manslaughter. Kerrick’s defense team has called the shooting tragic but justified. His attorneys maintain he followed CMPD procedures.
“We're confident at the resolution of this case, it will be found that Officer Kerrick's actions were justified on the night in question,” said one of Kerrick’s attorneys, Michael Greene, a few days after the shooting.
Michael Levine, a former DEA agent who’s testified in many cases around the country involving police procedures and shootings, says that will depend on if Greene can prove that Kerrick's actions followed national standards for use of deadly force.
“It has to be a last resort, no other alternative and the reason behind the person using deadly force reasonably feared for his life or someone else's,” Levine said. “Officers under oath will say I feared for my life, but there are no tests that measure fear.”
A dash cam video of the shooting has not been released to the public, but Jonathan Ferrell’s family has seen it. They believe Ferrell was a victim of racial profiling.
Racial profiling was also on the minds of many who attended a vigil marking the one-year anniversary of Ferrell’s death. Bree Newsome, now known for taking down the Confederate flag in Columbia, spoke at that event in September 2014.
“Even if you make it into college as Jonathan did, you can still end up gunned down by the cops,” Newsome said. “Our whole lives are about walking around like this, hands up, trying to prove that we are not criminals and have a right to live.”
At a unity rally held this month, Jibril Hough, of the Islamic Center of Charlotte told the crowd, “My prayer today is for us to continue cooperating with the Police Department but my prayer even more than that is justice for Jonathan Ferrell."
CMPD Police Chief Kerr Putney was also at that rally. He says he hopes unity prevails as expected large crowds and possibly protesters, local and outsiders, show up for the trial. Putney says he will not tolerate riots and is working with the local clergy, NAACP and other groups to ensure the city's safety during the trial and after the verdict.
“We're connected with people who can help us de-escalate a situation, community leaders who have that credibility already,” Putney said. “The protesters who want to demonstrate and get their messages out, I want to protect them and keep them out of harm's way and we have a lot of people who will join and help us do that.”
The trial is expected to last at least a month. If convicted, Kerrick faces up to 11 years in prison.