An unarmed man who was killed by police as he sought help after a car accident had moved to Charlotte, North Carolina less than a year before his death.  Jonathan A. Ferrell, 24, was likely unfamiliar with the area he was driving in before his accident early Saturday.  Police were called after he knocked on the door of a home looking for help.  He was shot with a taser by one officer then shot to death by another when he approached them.  Officer Randall Kerrick was charged with voluntary manslaughter as a result.

Ferrell’s mother said she was praying for the officer, “I truly forgive him. I pray for him. And I pray that he gets off the police force,” Georgia Ferrell said. “You took a piece of my heart that I can never get back.”

Georgia Ferrell traveled with family to Charlotte from her home in Florida to meet with police officials.  Police determined the shooting was excessive and charged Kerrick on Saturday.  A police statement said the investigation showed “Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon…” The encounter unfolded after police said the car Ferrell was driving went off road and crashed into some trees.  Police Chief Rodney Monroe has said the wreck was so severe that Ferrell would have had to climb out of the back window.

Ferrell walked a half-mile looking for help.  He found the nearest house, approached it, and banged on the door to attract attention.  The woman who was there alone thought it was her husband, according to police.  She opened the door saw Ferrell and then shut it in his face.  She called police at around 2:30 am and reported that a man was banging on her door repeatedly.  There was no indication that Ferrell made any threats or was attempting a robbery or burglary.  Officers responded to the suspected breaking and entering and found Ferrell, who matched the caller’s description.

According to the officers, he ran toward them, so they tasered him.  He continued toward them, so Officer Kerrick shot Ferrell several times.  He died at the scene.  The investigation determined that Officer Kerrick fired his gun 12 times hitting Ferrell 10 times resulting in his death.  The police learned of the car crash after Ferrell’s death, “It was a pretty serious accident,” said Chief Monroe.

Willie Ferrell, the victim’s brother, told CNN, “We’re going to file the necessary legal actions to ensure that we get the answers that this family deserves, that America deserves.  This was an unwarranted, inhumane shooting.”

“To shoot first and ask questions later is not an appropriate action for a police officer,” Chris Chestnut, Ferrell’s family’s attorney, said.

Officer Kerrick was released on $50,000 bond on Sunday.  Kerrick was one of three officers who responded to the call.

“The evidence revealed that Mr. Ferrell did advance on Officer Kerrick and the investigation showed that the subsequent shooting of Mr. Ferrell was excessive,” police said in a statement.

A charge of voluntary manslaughter means the person used excessive force in self-defense, or carried out the act without intent to kill.  At a news conference, Monroe said, “Our heart(s) go out to the family” and to members of the police force. “This is never something easy.”

“I think this is poor decision-making,” Chestnut said at a news conference Monday. “I think this is more a reflection of where we are as a country.” Regardless of race, people should be “more sympathetic” to each other, he said.  He also told the media that before we assign race as an issue, we should “pause and consider violence.”

A police report that was released said that Kerrick told officers that Ferrell “assaulted him by unknown means.”  The incident took place over the same weekend that New York police wounded two bystanders while trying to shoot a man with emotional disturbances near Times Square.  Glenn Broadnax, 35, was walking into traffic in front of the Port Authority bus terminal trying to get hit by a car.  Broadnax resisted officers by dodging them when they tried to arrest him.  He mimicked shooting at the officers and two officers shot him.  Another officer shot Broadnax with a taser afterwards.  It was the second time within a year that NYPD officers shot bystanders.  Broadnax lived and was charged with several misdemeanors, including reckless endangerment.


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