CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Defense attorneys say that a Charlotte police officer was justified in shooting an unarmed man who apparently was seeking help when he approached officers after a car crash.
Lawyers representing Officer Randall Kerrick were in court Tuesday for a first appearance on the charge of voluntary manslaughter. Kerrick did not attend the hearing. The judge scheduled an Oct. 7 probable cause hearing for Kerrick.
After the hearing, defense attorney Michael Greene said of Kerrick: “His actions were justified on the night in question.”
He declined to take questions.
Authorities say Kerrick shot Jonathan A. Ferrell 10 times early Saturday after the 24-year-old was in a single-car wreck and sought help at a nearby house. The homeowner called 911.
Police say that Ferrell advanced on officers and wasn’t stopped by a Taser.
On Monday, Ferrell’’s family said in their first public remarks in the case that the former Florida A&M University football player moved to Charlotte about a year ago to be with his fiancee and was working two jobs. He wanted to go back to school and eventually become an automotive engineer, they said.
Also Monday, a family attorney and representatives of the NAACP questioned whether race played a role in the shooting of the Black man by a White officer. Though there was praise for police for quickly filing charges, some said the shooting didn’t surprise them, considering portrayals of Black men in popular culture and previous instances of racially inflected violence.
The encounter was set in motion around 2:30 a.m. Saturday when Ferrell’s car ran off the entrance road to a suburban neighborhood about 15 miles from downtown Charlotte.
After crashing his car into trees, Ferrell kicked out the back window and headed up a hill to the first set of closely-clustered houses he could see. He then started “banging on the door viciously” of a home to attract attention, police Chief Rodney Monroe said.
The woman inside answered, thinking it was her husband coming home late from work. When she saw Ferrell, she shut the door and called police. Monroe said he didn’t think the unarmed Ferrell made threats.
Officers responding to the breaking and entering call found Ferrell on a road that only leads to the neighborhood’s pool. Ferrell ran toward the officers, who tried to stop him with a Taser. Police said he continued to run toward them when Kerrick shot him. Ferrell died at the scene.
Family attorney Chris Chestnut, who has spoken with police officials, said that Kerrick didn’t identify himself as a police officer.
A small pot of flowers and red balloons were placed on the spot. Orange spray paint was the only other indication of where Ferrell died.
His family painted a picture of a bright man with an “infectious smile” who was always there for his brothers and sisters. “He was a role model,” said his brother, Frank. “He had so much love in his heart. And he was always concerned about his family.”
“He had dreams of being an automotive engineer. He wanted to design a car from the very last bolt to the interior,” his brother said.
Ferrell was at least the sixth person to be shot by Charlotte-Mecklenburg officers since the start of 2012. Four of them have died.
In the other shootings, prosecutors decided not to charge the officers involved, and an independent panel of citizens that investigates the police ruled the shootings were justified.