A police officer who shot dead an unarmed man seeking help following a car accident appeared in court in Charlotte, North Carolina today, charged with voluntary manslaughter. Officer Randall Kerrick fired 12 shots at 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell during the deadly incident in the early hours of Saturday morning, hitting him 10 times, according to a news release from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
Ferrell, a former college football player at Florida's A&M University, had recently moved to the Charlotte area and become engaged to be married. Early on Saturday his car left the road and crashed into trees in the city's northeast outskirts. Police Chief Rodney Monroe said at a press conference that the crash was so serious that Ferrell would have had to clamber from the car's back window to escape.
The 24-year-old then walked around half a mile to the nearest home, where, Monroe said, he began “banging on the door viciously” to attract attention. Not recognising him, the woman living there called 911 at around 2.30am to report an intruder. When police arrived, Ferrell reportedly ran towards the officers, one of whom fired a Taser. When Ferrell failed to stop approaching, Kerrick shot him. Ferrell died at the scene.
The authorities quickly determined that the shooting was excessive, charging Kerrick with voluntary manslaughter later the same day. The Ferrell family's lawyer, Chris Chestnut, praised police for their quick response.
Civil rights leaders are nonetheless demanding that a crime scene video be made public. Kerrick is white, Ferrell was black. At a press conference on Monday, Kojo Nantambu, president of the Charlotte chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, said “Any day in this country, an African-American man can be killed for no reason by the people who are supposed to be protecting him. That's not an anomaly in this country. They're never given the benefit of the doubt, and that has to change.”