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Court fails to convict police officer in NC shooting death of former FAMU football playerAugust 26, 2015
By: Jack Strickland
“We’ve got to keep them from killing our children,” the mother of Jonathan Ferrell, 24, lamented as she stood on the courthouse steps in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Georgia Ferrell spoke through tears as she reacted to the ending, a few moments earlier, of the trial of the police officer who shot and killed her son. The court failed to convict police officer Randall Kerrick, 29, of voluntary manslaughter in the September 2013 shooting of the former Florida A&M University football player.
The two-week long trial ended in a mistrial after the judge determined that the jury was hopelessly deadlocked and could not reach a unanimous verdict. It was reported that the jury was split 8-4 in favor of acquittal of Officer Kerrick. Prosecutors said they have not yet determined if they will retry Kerrick.
In May, Charlotte city officials agreed to pay the Ferrell family $2.5 million to settle a civil lawsuit for the wrongful death of Jonathan Ferrell.
Standing next to his mother on the courthouse steps, Willie Ferrell vowed to keep his brother’s memory alive. He said a campaign has been launched under the name “Justice for Jonathan.” He promised to keep the spotlight focused on inappropriate police treatment of young people.
The Ferrell family is represented by attorney Chris Chestnut. He is a graduate of Florida A & M University. Chestnut urged the public to petition the North Carolina Attorney General urging him to retry the case.
Kerrick was fired within days after shooting Ferrell. The Charlotte police chief said he used excessive force in confronting Ferrell. He determined that deadly force was not justified. He said non-lethal force should have been used to subdue Ferrell. The attorney general and prosecution team agreed.
The defense team strongly disagreed with the police chief, attorney general, and prosecution team. They said Kerrick’s actions were justified because Ferrell’s actions caused the police officer to be in fear for his life.
On the witness stand Kerick testified that he fired his gun 12 times, hitting Ferrell 10 times, because he thought Ferrell was trying to take his gun. He said Ferrell charged him and they tussled before the two of them tumbled into a roadside ditch. It was alleged that Kerrick’s DNA was found under the fingernail of Ferrell, confirming that the police officer was attacked by Ferrell.
At issue was the role race may have played in the incident. Ferrell was black. Kerrick is white.
The jury appears to have voted along racial lines. The composition of the jury was seven white, three black, and two Hispanic.
The incident began around 2:30 a.m. when Ferrell lost control of his car on Charlotte’s winding roads that were unfamiliar to him. He crashed his car into a gully. The car was so severely damaged Ferrell had to kick out the rear windshield to exit the wrecked car. He walked to a nearby neighborhood apparently seeking help.
Testimony documented that he pounded on the door of a home occupied by a young mother and her infant child. The resident said she opened the door thinking it was her husband returning from work without his house keys. When she saw the stranger she said she slammed the door and called 911 thinking the person was a burglar.
Civil rights activists maintained her action was racist. They maintained that she would not have been alarmed or called police if the stranger had been white. They also claimed that Kerrick and other responding officers came on the scene expecting to confront a black man trying to attack a white woman. It was alleged that Kerrick arrived on the scene prepared to shoot to kill.
The housewife and policemen denied that claim.
The failure of the jury to convict Kerrick prompted civil protests and acts of disobedience. Streets were blocked by demonstrators laying down in support of the “Black Lives Matter” campaign.
The Ferrell family pleaded for calm. Willie Ferrell, Joathan’s younger brother, advocated against any acts of violence. “We are not a violent family,” he said. “Johnathan was not a violent person”.
The attorney general gave no indication on when he will determine if the case will be retried.