North Carolina police officer Randall Kerrick was indicted Monday on charges of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell. Kerrick, called to the scene after an unarmed Ferrell was seen knocking on a homeowner's door and seeking help after a traffic accident, fired 12 shots at Ferrell, striking him 10 times.
As Kerrick prepares to stand trial on the charge, Ferrell's family attorney says the dash cam video that recorded the September 14th encounter will be key to his conviction."The dash cam video clearly shows an unarmed African American young male approaching the police officers, not running away from them, hands out, he's posing no threat to them whatsoever and you hear Officer Kerrick shoot him," says attorney Chris Chestnut.
It's 1, 2, 3, 4, pause, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, pause, 1, 2. A total of 12 shots, 10 hit the victim, mainly in his torso, and all at a downward angle, suggesting that Officer Kerrick at the time of firing his weapon was in a superior position. Thus, Jonathan was no threat to him at all, highlighted by the fact there are two other officers standing to the left and right of Officer Kerrick who never drew their guns.
Chestnut viewed the video alongside Ferrell's family when the chief of police invited them in shortly after his death. In an interview with hosts Mari Fagel and Eboni K. Williams on Black Hollywood Live's Justice is Served, Chestnut describes the video, which has not been released to the media.
"Jonathan had just been involved in a very serious car accident, so he is barefoot in a t-shirt and jeans and he is walking towards them," a fact Chestnut says hurts the defense's theory of the case. "Their allegation is they thought he was a robber. Well, a robber isn't going to walk towards you, he is going to run the other way."
Chestnut says the video also shows Kerrick was too quick to fire his weapon.
"The commands they issued, they never identified themselves as Charlotte police, they never say stop, freeze, etc., and when they finally do begin to issue commands, the succession of gunshots is so immediate that no reasonable human being could have reacted. He emptied the clip."
Chestnut adds that Kerrick's behavior after he fired the shots highlights his lack of regard for Ferrell's life.
"What's most aggravating about all of this, just shocking and inhumane, after they shot him ten times on the ground, they handcuffed him. The handcuffs weren't removed from Jonathan Ferrell's body until he got to the medical examiners office."
The upcoming trial will be key in not only providing Ferrell's family with justice but in holding Charlotte-area officers accountable for their actions, says Chestnut.
"I think what we are experiencing post-9/11 is what I call para-military policing where you have overzealous police officers who need training. There is an escalation to deadly force, you just don't jump to it, but that's what Officer Kerrick clearly did here."
Chestnut says claims of excessive use of force have plagued the Charlotte police department for years, but that the department has not effectively addressed the problem.
"In a two-year period, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department had 979 injuries in police encounters related to arrest," Chestnut said. "979 citizens were injured by the police department. Of the complaints filed for excessive force, 95.5 percent of those complaints went unaddressed, no discipline, no action whatsoever."
And while Chestnut anticipates race will play a part in the upcoming trial, he says this case is about how officers are trained to deal with all citizens, whether they be white or minority.
"I think this disproportionately affects the African American community because they disproportionately encounter police officers but I think this is a larger problem affecting all Americans, regardless of race," Chestnut said. "There is a fundamental problem with the training of police officers."