Mother of man killed by CMPD officer: Piece of me is gone

 

Shootings by CMPD officers

Ferrell was the sixth person shot by a CMPD officer since 2012. Three have died:

•  On July 2, 2012, Michael Deangelo Laney, 28, was shot in the head by a police officer after he tried to pull a gun while wrestling with another officer in the Biddleville neighborhood off Beatties Ford Road, police said.

•  On Sept. 4, 2012, a 26-year-old man with a history of mental health problems was shot and killed by police after his grandmother called for help from her Ballantyne-area home, saying she was concerned about him.

•  On July 6, 2013, a police officer shot and Killed Lemuel Rufus Furr III. Police said Furr pointed guns at CMPD officers after emerging from his north Charlotte house, where he had barricaded himself after a fight with his dad.


cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

The mother of a 24-year-old man who was shot and killed by a police officer early Saturday said Monday that her son, Jonathan Ferrell, was “a good man” who came to Charlotte to further his education and marry his fiancée.

“I expected my son to bury me, not for me to bury him,” Georgia Ferrell said during an 11 a.m. news conference uptown.

Later, she said she forgave Officer Randall Kerrick, who is charged with voluntary manslaughter.

“I forgive him. I just hope he gets off the force,” she said. “He took a piece out of my heart that can never be put back. A piece of me is gone,”

Ferrell had been in a car wreck and knocked on a woman’s door seeking help. She called 911, who dispatched three officers who encountered Ferrell around 2:30 a.m. During the encounter, Kerrick was the only one who fired a gun. Police said on Monday that Kerrick fired 12 shots, and 10 bullets struck Ferrell.

Christopher Chestnut, the Florida-based attorney representing the Ferrells, said the family has questions about what he described as a “shoot-first, ask-questions-later” policy by Kerrick.

Chestnut said Ferrell wasn’t attacking police officers when he saw their flashing blue lights. “He was running to them for help. He was not threatening anyone.”

Ferrell had no criminal record in North Carolina. A 2011 misdemeanor charge in Florida was dismissed.

It’s rare for Charlotte-Mecklenburg police to charge one of their own following a fatal shooting. A source close to the investigation told the Observer that at least one video describes some of the interaction between Kerrick and the three officers dispatched to a robbery call on Reedy Creek Road early Saturday.

Civil Rights advocates also held a press conference in front of the government center on Monday, calling for police to re-examine their policies regarding use of force.

They also used the killing to bolster an eight-month fight to get the city to give more power to a citizens review board the reviews police disciplinary practices, including the use of excessive force.

A crash, a knock, gunshots

Early Saturday morning, Jonathan Ferrell was lost. His family’s attorney wouldn’t say why Ferrell was driving in the expansive Bradfield Farms neighborhood, near the Cabarrus-Mecklenburg border.

Ferrell turned his black Toyota Camry down a road that leads to the subdivision’s tennis courts, pool and clubhouse.

But the car crashed into an embankment about 2 a.m., police said. Investigators said they found no indication of alcohol use, but are waiting for toxicology tests.

The wreck was so bad that Ferrell had to kick out the back window to climb out of his mangled car. It was unclear whether he was injured, or how badly, but he walked about a quarter mile to a house just visible over the crest of a hill.

The road that leads to the pool is lit, but there are no streetlights near the house, on Reedy Creek Road. The house is next to a grove of trees and a greenway that joggers and dog walkers use. It’s also right next to McKee Creek.

Monroe say Ferrell started “banging on the door viciously.”

The woman who lives there at first thought the man knocking on the door was her husband, coming home late from work. But police said when she saw Ferrell, she thought he was a robber. She dialed 911, asking for officers to come.

About 2:30 a.m., three Hickory Grove division officers responded to the call – Kerrick, 27, who’s been an officer since April 2011; Thornell Little, who joined the department in April 1998; and Adam Neal, who’s been an officer since May 2008.

They encountered Ferrell a short distance from the home, police said.

As the officers got out of their car, “Mr. Ferrell immediately ran toward the officers,” according to a police statement. It said Ferrell moved toward Kerrick.

Little fired his Taser, but police said it was unsuccessful.

Police said Kerrick fired “several” rounds, striking Ferrell “multiple times.” He died at the scene.

Nineteen hours later, police announced that Kerrick had been charged with voluntary manslaughter.

A source close to the investigation said there is at least some “dash cam” video footage of the incident.

Suspended in December

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer charged with voluntary manslaughter in the killing of an unarmed man early Saturday served a one-day suspension last year, records obtained by the Observer show.

Officer Randall Kerrick, 27, was arrested Saturday night and released soon after under $50,000 bond.

The Hickory Grove officer was suspended for eight hours in December. The records do not list the reason for the suspension.

Kerrick, a third-year officer, joined CMPD in 2011, officials said. He graduated from the academy in October 2011.

Records show that he worked as an animal care and control officer before becoming a police training recruit. His first employment date is listed as March 2010.

Kerrick’s annual salary is $44,482. He lives in Midland, east of Charlotte, in Cabarrus County.

The mother of a 24-year-old man who was shot by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer early Saturday in northeast Charlotte said Monday that her son Jonathan was “a good man” who had come to Charlotte to further his education and improve his life.

“I expected my son to bury me, not for me to bury him,” Georgia Ferrell said during a late-morning news conference, adding that her son was “a great guy, a very successful man.”

And Christopher Chestnut, the Florida-based attorney representing the family, said he has questions about what he said was a “shoot-first, ask-questions-later” policy by Randall Kerrick, the CMPD officer accused of shooting Jonathan Ferrell to death.

“We will look exhaustively as to why he was on the force,” Chestnut said.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police took the rare step Saturday of charging one of their own with voluntary manslaughter in the case. Experts said they were surprised how quickly charges were brought against Kerrick, the first CMPD officer in decades to be charged with killing someone in the line of duty.

With growing national and international attention in the case, Georgia Ferrell, along with her son Willie, and Chestnut appeared before the media in Charlotte’s uptown, saying they met earlier in the day with CMPD officials and expected to meet later Monday with Chief Rodney Monroe.

Meanwhile, Charlotte’s chapter of the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina planned an early-afternoon news conference to discuss the case.

The ACLU called Monday for the City of Charlotte to reform the Citizens Review Board, which is assigned the task of reviewing police actions.

Kerrick is scheduled to make his first court appearance at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in Charlotte, according to the district attorney’s office. He was released from jail Saturday after posting $50,000 bond.

Georgia Ferrell, clutching a yellow Winnie the Pooh bear that she said belonged to Jonathan when he was a child, said her faith in God has allowed her to forgive the person who shot her son.

“I forgive him,” she said. “I just hope he gets off the force.”

She added, “He took a piece out of my heart that can never be put back. A piece of me is gone.”

Matter of race?

Chestnut also said he wonders about the possible role of race in the shooting.

“The officer is white, Mr. Ferrell is black,” he said. “This might be more of a reflection of where we are as a country.”

But he added later, “Before rushing to assign race to this event, we should deal with the issue of violence in this country. That might be the real issue here.”

Chestnut said the family has not decided if it will sue the police department, adding, “We’re planning to get answers. If that requires a lawsuit, then we will.”

City Manager Ron Carlee told the Observer on Monday that charging Kerrick “was not a rush to judgment. We have complete confidence in our officers that are on the street everyday.”

Ultimately the department decided Kerrick “did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon,” according to a police statement.

Chestnut said he and the family are appreciative of how quickly prosecutors brought charges against Kerrick. “We applaud the chief,” he said, adding, “This is unprecedented, moving so fast.”

But Chestnut, a high-profile Florida-based attorney, said he and the family have questions about police training procedures.

“And we want to know how this man got a badge, how he got on the force,” he said.

Carlee said Monday that the city and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police will look at training procedures.

“Any time you have a public safety incident like this, involving police or the fire department, you look at your practices and training. But I’m not seeing anything that I would describe as systemic.”

“My heart goes out to Mr. Ferrell’s family,” Carlee said. “But also to the officer. There’s no evidence that there was any malice.”

Stranded after wreck

Ferrell moved to Charlotte in February after a stint at FAMU where he played safety on the school’s football team. He worked two jobs, one at Best Buy and another at Dillard’s department store.

Police said he drove a black Toyota Camry down a street that leads to the community’s pool, clubhouse and tennis courts. But the car crashed into an embankment about 2 a.m., police said. Investigators said they found no indication of alcohol use, but are waiting for toxicology tests.

Ferrell apparently climbed out of the back window of his mangled car, police said. It was unclear whether he was injured, but he walked to a house just visible over the crest of a hill, about a quarter-mile away.

He started “banging on the door viciously,” according to Monroe.

The woman who lives there at first thought the man knocking on the door was her husband, coming home late from work. But police said when she saw Ferrell, she thought he was a robber. She dialed 911, asking for officers to come to her home in the 7500 block of Reedy Creek Road.

About 2:30 a.m., three Hickory Grove division officers responded to the call – Kerrick, 27, who’s been an officer since April 2011; Thornell Little, who joined the department in April 1998; and Adam Neal, who’s been an officer since May 2008.

They encountered Ferrell a short distance from the home, police said.

As the officers got out of their car, “Mr. Ferrell immediately ran toward the officers,” according to a police statement. It said Ferrell moved toward Kerrick.

Little fired his Taser, but police said it was unsuccessful.

Police said Kerrick fired “several” rounds, striking Ferrell “multiple times.” He died at the scene.

Ferrell had no criminal record in North Carolina and a 2011 misdemeanor charge in Florida that was dismissed.

During Monday’s news conference, Chestnut said he wonders “why two officers did the right thing – by not pulling their guns – but another officer fired several times.”

He said Ferrell wasn’t attacking police officers. “He was running to them for help,” he said. “He was not threatening anyone.”

Ferrell was the sixth person shot by a CMPD officer since 2012.

Deadly force

North Carolina law allows police officers to use deadly force if they fear for their lives or someone else’s.

Officers are trained to use the appropriate amount of force – anything from a simple police presence to firing a bullet.

How the department handles discipline – especially when it comes to using force – has faced scrutiny in the last year.

In particular, the city is trying to determine whether it should make reforms to its Citizens Review Board.

People who feel they’ve been victims of police misconduct can appeal to the review board if they are not satisfied with the results of a CMPD investigation into their complaints. But residents who appeal to the review board must meet an unusually high standard of proof before it will hold hearings on their allegations, an Observer investigation in February showed.

Carlee, the city manager, told the Observer he thinks the department’s training and disciplinary regulations are adequate.

“I can’t say that I see any deficiencies there,” he said. “I’ve not seen any patterns to suggest anything systemic. I have absolute confidence in the department’s own monitoring.”

Quick charges are rare

Two experts who study police use of force told the Observer on Sunday that they had never seen a police officer charged so swiftly in a shooting.

“That’s unheard of,” said Mike Bumcrot, a California-based consultant with the Police Policy Studies Council. He’s also a retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide detective. “I was pretty dumbfounded.”

Bumcrot said internal affairs and homicide investigations into police shootings typically take weeks.

“I’ve never seen it happen that fast,” said Bumcrot. “The only thing I can figure is the officer must have made some statement ... that really put him in a bind.”

Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina professor of criminology, said it’s “very rare” for a police officer to be charged with a criminal offense for using a weapon in the line of duty. Internal discipline, up to being fired, is much more common.

“I’ve never seen a criminal charge that quickly,” said Alpert. “Normally it takes a lot longer to figure out what happened.”

Alpert said that the quick charging time could be completely reasonable, based on what investigators found.

“There’s no standard time,” he said.

He said a criminal charge is “reserved for really extreme cases.”

Alpert said the determination of whether force is justified typically depends on whether the officer feared for his or her life.

“Was it objectively reasonable?” said Alpert. “It depends on what the officer knew at the time.”

Observer staff writer Steve Harrison and researcher Maria David contributed.

Wootson: 704-358-5046 On Twitter: @CleveWootson Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson

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