North Carolina police officer: fatal shooting was unavoidable

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 14, 2015 1:15 PM

By Greg Lacour

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Reuters) - A white North Carolina police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man in 2013 told jurors on Friday that he had no other choice as he explained his actions during a second day of testimony in his manslaughter trial.

The officer, 29-year-old Randall Kerrick, also said he had turned off his dashboard camera, in apparent violation of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department rules.

Questioned by prosecutors, Kerrick acknowledged that he did not attempt to dodge the victim, 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell, or try to subdue him with his baton or his hands as Ferrell ran toward police or when the two had fallen into a drainage ditch.

“You didn’t try to re-holster, go hands on?” asked prosecutor Teresa Postell during the trial in state Superior Court in Charlotte. “No,” Kerrick responded. “We did not have time.”

Kerrick took the stand Thursday afternoon, and Postell subjected him to a three hour cross-examination Friday raising discrepancies between his trial testimony and statements to homicide investigators shortly after the shooting on Sept. 14, 2013.

Kerrick maintained his composure for most of her questions but finally snapped over one about the order of events leading up to the shooting.

"I was in a fight for my life," he testified, voice trembling. "I’m sorry if there’s a few inconsistencies."

Kerrick said he never saw a weapon in Ferrell’s hands but could not be sure he did not have one at the time.

The incident was one in a series of police killings of unarmed black men that have raised questions about the excessive use of police force and racial injustice in the United States.

Ferrell, a former Florida A&M football player, had crashed his car after a night out. Unable to retrieve his cellphone from the wreck, he walked to a nearby house and knocked on the door. The woman who lived there feared a home invasion and summoned authorities.

Kerrick fired 12 times at Ferrell, striking him 10 times, according to trial evidence.

Prosecutors have said Kerrick used unnecessary force, firing a second round of shots after Ferrell had fallen at his feet, and then two more after Ferrell’s body moved for a final time.

Kerrick's defense lawyer, arguing the shooting was justified, has said Ferrell’s DNA was discovered on the officer’s gun and beneath his fingernails.

A toxicology report found no traces of drugs in Ferrell’s system and a blood-alcohol level below the legal limit for driving.

(Reporting by Greg Lacour; Editing by Eric Beech and Andrew Hay)