A Charlotte Mecklenburg Police officer charged with
involuntary voluntary manslaughter in the shooting of an unarmed man over the weekend is due in court this afternoon. CMPD says Officer Randall Kerrick used excessive force in the death of Jonathan Ferrell, firing his gun 12 times and striking Ferrell with ten of those bullets. An attorney for the Ferrell family calls the criminal charge "bold" and "unprecedented," but questions whether CMPD vets and trains its officers adequately.
Bleary-eyed and weepy, Georgia Ferrell clutched her son's childhood stuffed animal ("This is Jonathan's Pooh bear - he loved Pooh.") and she delivered this message to the CMPD officer who shot and killed 24-year-old Jonathan early Saturday morning:
"I truly forgive him and I pray for him. And I pray that he gets off the (police) force because I don't know, what was the problem? Was he angry? I know Jonathan - he was a very happy, uplifting person. He wouldn't hurt anyone."
Ferrell says her son was prone to bringing home stray animals: "And I had to teach Jonathan that worms are not our friends, cause Mommy's scared of them."
Ferrell says her son moved to Charlotte about a year ago. He had a fiancée he was planning to marry soon. He was working two jobs so he could enroll in school. The Ferrell's attorney, Christopher Chestnut, says Jonathan was a chemistry major with a 3.7 GPA at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.
CMPD says Ferrell crashed his black Toyota Camry down an embankment in Northeast Mecklenburg County sometime around 2 a.m. on Saturday. Investigators say they found no sign of alcohol use, but are waiting for a toxicology test. In an apparent attempt to get help, Ferrell arrived at a home about a quarter of a mile away and began "banging on the door viciously" according to CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe. A woman answered the door, thinking it was her husband coming home from work.
"To her surprise, it was an individual that she did not know or recognize," said Monroe at a press conference on Saturday morning. "She immediately closed the door, hit her panic alarm, called 911."
Monroe says three officers responded to the 911 call.
"As the officers approached him - just to determine if in fact he is the individual and what's going on - he just immediately takes off and runs toward a particular officer," said Monroe. "That officer attempted to retreat, but at the same, fired his weapon."
That officer was Randall Kerrick who, CMPD says, fired 12 times and struck Ferrell with 10 of those bullets. Ferrell was unarmed. Chestnut says based on the family's conversation with police investigators, Jonathan was clearly running to police for help.
"From our review, the only sounds were the sounds of gunshots," says Chestnut. "There were no commands to, 'Stop! Freeze, or I'll shoot! Police!' I think this is a young man who probably was going towards the police officers, the same way if you were injured in a car accident, you saw red or blue lights you'd run – to them for help. Not to death."
Chestnut commends CMPD for what he calls a "bold" and "unprecedented" move to so swiftly charge Officer Randall Kerrick with voluntary manslaughter within 24 hours of the incident. Typically, internal police investigations take several weeks.
CMPD officers have shot and killed three people since early 2012, but none was charged. City Manager Ron Carlee explains why this situation is different.
"As the police chief told me – just very straightforward - they make decisions to charge people every day in big crimes and small crimes," said Carlee. "(Monroe) said, 'Once you have probable cause you act. We went through the course of the day, we did a very thorough investigation and once we had probably cause we did what we would do in another case.'"
Randall Kerrick was hired by the city as an animal control officer in 2010 and transferred to the police force in April 2011. His personnel file indicates an eight-hour suspension last December. CMPD has not disclosed the reason for the suspension.
Attorney Christopher Chestnut says the Ferrell family is prepared to sue for more information about Kerrick's background, motives and whether he was adequately trained by CMPD. City Manager Ron Carlee says he's not "seen anything at this point to suggest any systemic problems with police training."
"And from everything that I've seen, there was no suggestion of any malice on the part of the officer himself," said Carlee. "And you've got to feel for him and his family as well. This is just a bad situation on all dimensions."
Kerrick turned himself in on Saturday and was released on $50,000 bond. He'll make his first court appearance on Tuesday afternoon.