North Carolina police officer indicted in shooting of unarmed man

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 27, 2014 7:07 PM

By Colleen Jenkins

WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Reuters) - A North Carolina police officer accused of shooting and killing an unarmed man was indicted on Monday on a voluntary manslaughter charge, one week after a separate grand jury decided against indicting him.

The officer, Randall Kerrick, who is accused of hitting the man, Jonathan Ferrell, 10 times in the shooting last September 14, is the first police officer in the city of Charlotte to be arrested for an on-duty shooting in at least 30 years, the Charlotte Observer said.

Civil advocates have called for punishment in the case that drew attention nationally, in part, for its racial overtones. The officer is white and Ferrell a black, 24-year-old former Florida A&M University football player.

Their paths crossed after Ferrell banged on the door of a home in the middle of the night looking for help after he crashed his car, police said. Kerrick responded to a 911 call about a suspected burglar.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, whose office is handling the case, choose to present it a second time to a grand jury after a panel that was short some members last week asked to consider a lesser charge instead.

Cooper's office said it was pursuing an indictment on the original charge "in the interest of justice."

A judge on Monday denied a request by Kerrick's lawyers to block prosecutors from bringing the case to a grand jury again.

The officer's lawyers have said his actions were justified. In court on Monday, they questioned whether Kerrick could get a fair hearing in the legal system in the face of public demonstrations about the case, the Observer reported.

Ferrell's family members said they were grateful for the indictment.

"Shooting an unarmed man 10 times can never be justified under these circumstances," they said in a statement.

According to police, Ferrell wrecked his car in the woods late at night and then walked to a nearby house in a predominantly white neighborhood trying to find help.

A woman who answered the door at the house where Ferrell knocked thought he was a burglar, feared for her safety and called police.

Kerrick and two other officers responded. They found Ferrell a short distance away when police said he began to run toward them. One officer unsuccessfully fired a Taser at Ferrell, police said. Kerrick then fired his gun 12 times, hitting Ferrell 10 times, police said.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Grant McCool)