*Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Randall Kerrick is charged with voluntary manslaughter in Saturday’s shooting death of 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell, but the head of Charlotte’s Chapter of the NAACP says a charge of manslaughter is not enough.
Kerrick’s attorney appeared before a judge Tuesday afternoon. His client did not attend the short hearing, where prosecutor Bruce Little announced the formal charge against Kerrick and said his next court date would be Oct. 7. That gives prosecutors three weeks to review the police department’s evidence and decide if they will take the case to a grand jury.
After the hearing, Kerrick’s attorneys made a short but confident statement.
“We’re going to allow this case to be tried in a court of law,” said defense attorney Mike Greene. “However, we’re confident at the resolution of this case and that it will be found that Officer Kerrick’s actions were justified on the night in question.”
But even before attorney Green finished talking, Charlotte NAACP president Rev. Kojo Nantambu said the charge does not fit the crime. NAACP leaders held a rally Monday before they heard that Ferrell had been shot 10 times. In a statement, Nantambu said that fact changes things, calling the crime “a brutal killing and execution.”
“I now say and will be lobbying for murder. No other charge will suffice,” Nantambu said Tuesday night. “Manslaughter is definitely not enough, with that many shots and nobody else is shooting, I think it should be murder.” Watch Nantambu’s press conference below.
On Tuesday, the family’s attorney, Chris Chestnut, said he saw the police dashcam video from that night. He said after seeing the interaction between Ferrell and Kerrick, there is no doubt the officer should face a more serious charge. Chestnut said Ferrell was hardly threatening as he approached officers with his hands in the air.
“He’s not dressed like a burglar. He’s in a green T-shirt. He’s a citizen,” Chestnut said.
But in a moment, it all changed as two red laser lights appeared on Ferrell’s chest from the officers’ stun guns.
“He’s coming forward and saying, ‘Stop,’ and he goes off the camera and you just hear shots, one, two, three, four – pause – one, two, three, four, five, six – pause – one, two. That is murder, cold blooded, badge or no badge, that’s murder,” said Chestnut.
Chestnut said Ferrell’s family has seen the video also, and it hurts. “It is completely devastating, just distressing to hear he shot him 10 times and that those shots took the life of your son, your fiancé, your brother,” Chestnut said.
Former federal prosecutor Kathleen Nicolaides said, based on the details she has heard, the voluntary manslaughter charge is the right one.
Nicolaides said the district attorney is going through the evidence and considering what to present to a jury.
“The government will have to show beyond a reasonable doubt that this is not a heat of passion killing, but the facts and circumstances that night caused that officer to go over the top and commit that killing,” she said.
Defense lawyers will try to prove Kerrick acted reasonably based on the conditions that night, but need to prove deadly force was necessary.
“If the victim came running at him and yelling, mere words are not sufficient provocation to let officers shoot to kill,” Nicolaides said.
And this case could have far-reaching effects on Charlotte and the police force.
Nicolaides said more legal action is possible. The Ferrell family could file a wrongful death lawsuit, there could be a civil rights action or the Department of Justice could get involved.
“The attorney general could ask DOJ to review CMPD policies and procedures here as well,” she said.
Police said Ferrell crashed his car near Reedy Creek Road Saturday morning. He then went to a house asking for help, police said. The woman inside the home called 911 and officers responded. Police said one of them tried to use a stun gun, which did not work. That’s when police said Kerrick started shooting.
Police released the 911 call of the shooting on Tuesday. In the call, the woman can be heard frantically saying to the dispatcher a man was trying to break into her home while her child was sleeping in the home. In the first minute and a half of the 17-minute call she was panicked, describing a man on her front porch. Listen below.
“911, hello?” the dispatcher said.
“I need help. There’s a guy breaking in my front door. Now he’s trying to kick it down,” the woman said.
The woman told the 911 dispatcher she thought it was her husband at the door when she saw the man trying to get in.
Moments later, the woman’s security alarm could be heard going off.
“He’s yelling, he’s yelling to turn off the alarm,” the woman told the dispatcher.
The woman claims the man continued to yell in her front yard, then at around the 11-minute mark in the call, the woman said police were there.
The shooting has touched many in the Charlotte community. Several people have started a makeshift memorial in the east Charlotte neighborhood where the shooting occurred. Residents have left candles, photos and notes about Ferrell at the scene.
The decision on whether to increase the voluntary manslaughter charge is up to the district attorney.
Watch a news report on the story below.