CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The district attorney of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, has handed off prosecution of the case against a Charlotte police officer who last weekend fatally shot an unarmed man who was seeking help after being involved in a car wreck.
DA Andrew Murray released a statement saying he has asked the North Carolina attorney general’s office to handle the case to avoid the possible appearance of conflict of interest.
Before being elected district attorney, Murray worked in private practice for a law firm, two of whose partners are now representing the police officer.
“In this case, there is no actual conflict of interest, but avoiding even the appearance of impropriety is essential to maintaining the public’s trust,” Murray’s office said in the release.
Jonathan Ferrell, a 24-year-old former football player for Florida A&M University, died in the shooting. He had kicked his way out of his back window after his car left the road and crashed into a ravine early Saturday.
He then walked to a nearby home, where he knocked on the door repeatedly for help.
The homeowner called police, who arrived soon after; as Ferrell approached them, he was shot dead by Officer Randall Kerrick.
Kerrick, who is charged with manslaughter, had no cause to shoot Ferrell, according to police.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said Monday that its investigation determined that Kerrick “fired his weapon 12 times and struck Mr. Ferrell 10 times resulting in his death.”
Ferrell was transferring from FAMU to a school in Charlotte to be with his fiancee.
“This is an all-American young man who survived a horrific accident,” Chris Chestnut, attorney for the Ferrell family, told CNN’s “New Day.” “He is crying for help and is showered with bullets.”
“This was an unwarranted, inhumane shooting,” the victim’s brother, Willie Ferrell, told CNN on Monday.
He said his family planned “to file the necessary legal actions to ensure that we get the answers that this family deserves, that America deserves.”
In an interview with CNN’s “New Day,” Ferrell’s mother, Georgia, described her son as “very, very happy,” outgoing, and loving to his friends and family.
He held down two jobs and would call her every morning to talk for about an hour, she said, adding, “I can’t even think of a bad thing he had done.”
Officer first tried stun gun, police say
“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 a statement. “Our investigation has shown that Officer Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter.”
Voluntary manslaughter means excessive use of force in self-defense, or use of force without intent to kill.
“Our heart(s) go out to the family” and to members of the police force, Monroe told reporters. “This is never something easy.”
Kerrick has not made a public statement. However, a police report says — without elaboration — that Kerrick reported that Ferrell “assaulted him by unknown means.”
Chestnut praised police for charging Kerrick, but said many questions remain unanswered.
“Why was this officer even with a badge and having a gun? What are the policies and procedures? What is the training that would allow an officer to act so irrationally, so inhumanely?”
Attorney: Unclear whether race involved
“I think this is poor decision-making,” Chestnut told reporters Monday. “I think this is more a reflection of where we are as a country.” Regardless of race, people should be “more sympathetic” to each other, he said. Ferrell was black; Kerrick is white.
Chestnut added, “Before we assign race to this issue, perhaps we should pause and consider violence.”
Kojo Nantambu, president of the NAACP’s Charlotte branch, called for Kerrick to be charged with murder.
There’s a “tradition in this country to be able to kill innocent black men,” he told reporters Monday.
The incident took place the same weekend that New York police wounded two bystanders while trying to shoot an “emotionally disturbed” man near Times Square, authorities said. Glenn Broadnax, 35, was walking into traffic in front of the Port Authority bus terminal in an apparent effort to be hit by a vehicle, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Saturday.
Broadnax initially dodged police as they tried to take him into custody, and then — armed with nothing more than his bare hand — mimicked shooting a gun at officers. Two officers — armed with real guns loaded with real bullets — responded by shooting, Kelly said. Neither of the officers — one a three-year veteran and the other on the force for 1-1/2 years — had been involved in a previous shooting, Kelly said.
Eventually, a third officer — using a Taser — took down the unarmed Broadnax, police said.
It was the second high-profile case in about a year in which NYPD officers have shot bystanders after opening fire in a busy public space.
But New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday that the city’s 34,000-plus police officers discharged their weapons a total of 83 times in 2012 — the lowest number since 1993.
“We’re in the middle of an investigation, it’s very tragic, our sympathies go out — thank God they were not fatal shootings,” Bloomberg told reporters Monday. A 54-year-old woman underwent surgery after being shot in the knee and a 37-year-old woman was treated and released after being grazed in the buttocks by a stray police bullet, police said.
Broadnax was charged with misdemeanors that included reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and criminal possession of a controlled substance. He was ordered to undergo a psychiatric exam during a pre-arraignment deposition Sunday, according to court documents.