CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer shot and killed a man running toward him — but the man may have just been looking for help after a car wreck.
Three officers responded to a “breaking and entering” 911 call at a home on the city’s east side around 2:30 a.m. Saturday.
The homeowner told dispatchers that a man had been knocking on her door repeatedly.
Police said when they got to the scene, a man matching the caller’s description ran toward them.
Police said one of the officers fired his stun gun, but it was “unsuccessful.” Another officer then opened fire, police said.
Jonathan Ferrell died at the scene. Authorities said he was shot several times and was unarmed.
Police now believe Ferrell was seeking assistance after crashing his car in some nearby woods.
Ferrell was 24 years old and a former football player at Florida A&M University.
Police found a wrecked car nearby, indicating that he may have been trying to get help.
“It was a pretty serious accident,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe told WSOC-TV.
The crash was so severe that authorities now believe Ferrell had to climb out of the back window, affiliate WBTV reported.
Investigators believe he ran to the closest house for help. The woman inside thought it was her husband.
“To her surprise, it was an individual that she did not know or recognize,” Monroe told WBTV. “She immediately closed the door, hit her panic alarm, called 911.”
The man stood outside and “continued to attempt to gain the attention of the homeowner,” a police statement said.
Police have charged Officer Randall Kerrick with voluntary manslaughter — a felony. He turned himself in Saturday afternoon and was being held early Sunday on $50,000 bond.
Police used “charged” and “ran” and “advanced” in their description of what Ferrell did.
There were three officers at the scene, but Kerrick was the only one to use a gun. Police said he fired several times. All three officers have been placed on paid leave.
“The evidence revealed that Mr. Ferrell did advance on Officer Kerrick and the investigation showed that the subsequent shooting of Mr. Ferrell was excessive,” police said in another statement issued late Saturday night. “Our investigation has shown that Officer Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter.”
A charge of voluntary manslaughter means the person used excessive force in self-defense, or carried out the act without intent to kill.
Police called the incident “unfortunate.”
“It has devastated a family as well as caused a great deal of sadness and anxiety in our organization,” a statement said.
Friends expressed grief on social media, calling Ferrell a “brother” and demanding “justice.”
He had at least one brother, Willie, who played with him at Florida A&M.
The university said it was “deeply saddened” at the loss. In a statement, Michael Smith, interim athletic director, said Ferrell played safety and was part of the 2010 championship team. “Our hearts and prayers go out to his family during their time of bereavement,” Smith said.
Ferrell was engaged. His 25th birthday would have been next month.
“We loved him. Our family loved him,” his fiancee’s mother told WSOC-TV.