CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP said 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 charged, but “murder.”

Rev. Kojo Nantambu, chapter president, said, “This , to me, executed this young man, for whatever reason. To me, it had to be rage, or hatred or something that clicked in this …”

When asked if the charge should have been stronger, Nantambu replied, “Yes, this was murder. No doubt about it. This was murder.”

Some others in Charlotte’s Black community share Nantambu’s assessment of what happened to Jonathan A. Ferrell, 24, the former Florida A&M University football player fatally shot by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) Officer Randall Kerrick in the early morning hours of Sept. 14.

Ferrell’s 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.

Kerrick reportedly shot Ferrell 10 times as he ran towards him following a serious traffic accident. Kerrick, who has been with the department 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.

Sources told WSOC-TV that video from a patrol car camera showed that Ferrell was unarmed even hiked his pants to show he had no weapons. The 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, said during a news conference. She clutched the Winnie the Pooh that was her son’s favorite toy when he was young.

Chris Chestnut, the Florida-based lawyer representing the Ferrell family, acknowledged the speed with which the department charged one of its own, but still raised questions about police training and how Ferrell’s race may have played a role in the tragic outcome.

According to published accounts, three CMPD police officers answered the “breaking and entering” 911 call that a woman Ferrell repeatedly knocked on her door. He went to the home seeking help 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 told the police dispatcher that she had a “sleeping child” in the home, believed that Ferrell was trying to break in because of his constant pounding.

As the officers reportedly approached Ferrell on Reedy Creek Road, he ran toward them, apparently gratified to see that help had arrived.

The story becomes murky then. 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. Kerrick was the only officer to fire his gun.

“The evidence revealed that Mr. Ferrell did advance on Officer Kerrick and the investigation showed that the subsequent shooting of Mr. Ferrell was excessive,” CMPD said in a statement. “Our investigation has shown that Officer Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter.”

A police incident report showed that Kerrick alleged that he was “assaulted,” though it doesn’t state by whom, and suffered “minor injuries.” He refused medical treatment, however.

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.

On Sept. 17, Kerrick, 27, was scheduled to make his first court appearance, but did not attend.

One of Kerrick’s attorneys, Michael Greene, an African American, told reporters that the officer’s actions “were justified.”

Kerrick’s next court date is Oct. 7.


Cash Michaels

Special to the NNPA from the Wilmington Journal