Focus on injuries in trial of officer in black man's death

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Posted: Aug 04, 2015 1:57 PM
Focus on injuries in trial of officer in black man's death

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — As a trial continued Tuesday for a white Charlotte police officer charged with killing a black man who was seeking help after a car crash, attorneys focused on the immediate aftermath of the brief, violent encounter between the two men.

Paramedics who were called to the shooting scene in the early morning of Sept. 14, 2013, testified that officer Randall Kerrick had swelling on his face and a cut on the inside of his cheek.

Nearby was Jonathan Ferrell, who had been shot and was face down handcuffed. Finding no heartbeat, the paramedics declared Ferrell dead and were told to not move his body.

Paramedic John Freeze testified Kerrick was pale and sweaty, mumbling at him at first, then looking up and said "he hit me" without elaborating.

Attorney Michael Greene, who is defending Kerrick, said in his opening statement Monday that Kerrick was attacked by Ferrell. He said Kerrick fired 12 shots because he feared for his life and had no information except that a homeowner in the suburban Charlotte neighborhood had called 911 and said a black man was trying to break down her door.

But prosecutors said Kerrick overreacted when he shot Ferrell, hitting him with 10 of his 12 bullets. They said the officer never identified himself and the 24-year-old former Florida A&M football player was likely agitated because he had crashed his car into trees in the unfamiliar neighborhood a few minutes earlier.

The paramedics called to the scene noted the swelling on Kerrick's cheek was in the same spot as the cut on the inside of his mouth and that he saw a little dried blood on Kerrick's lips.

Freeze told detectives several days after the shooting that Kerrick might have bitten his own lip. But paramedic Kenneth Phillips, who got to the shooting scene after Freeze, said the cut didn't appear to be caused by teeth.

Kerrick, 28, was charged with voluntary manslaughter just hours after the shooting, once investigators in his own department viewed the dashboard camera footage and walked through the scene with the officer and his lawyer.

Under North Carolina law, someone can be found guilty of voluntary manslaughter if a killing used "excessive force" or the death was part of someone exercising "imperfect self-defense."

The first grand jury that heard the case didn't indict Kerrick. Prosecutors argued four members were absent and were given a second chance to seek an indictment over strenuous defense objections.

Kerrick faces up to 11 years in prison if convicted. He was hired as a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in 2011 after serving as an animal control officer.

Ferrell's family settled a lawsuit with Charlotte for $2.25 million before the criminal trial began.

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP .