Author Michael Crichton once wrote, “Do you know what we call opinion in the absence of evidence? We call it prejudice.” In a breaking news story that is sure to provoke talk of racial perceptions, a white southern cop, feeling he was being threatened, gunned down an unarmed black athlete.
Yahoo! News on Sept. 15 carried the story of Randall Kerrick, a 27-year-old Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer, who fired his weapon multiple times, and ultimately killed, 24-year-old Jonathan A. Ferrell.
If an African American male arrived in the middle of the night, banging on your door, what would your first thought be? What would your first reaction be? Magnify this scenario and distill it down into split second decision-making, and introduce the element of a weapon. The infusion yields an unfortunate formula for tragedy.
On Saturday, Ferrell, a former Florida A&M University football player, was involved in a severe car crash on Reedy Creek Road in northeast Charlotte and needed help. Ferrell was alone in the crash, which occurred in a wooded area. He was forced to climb out of his car’s rear window, and then made his way to the nearest home.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Chief Rodney Monroe said Ferrell began “banging on the door viciously. It was quite possible he was seeking assistance based on his accident.”
The homeowner, thinking her husband had returned early from his overnight shift, came down and opened the door. However, after seeing Ferrell, she shut the door and called police, thinking a “burglar was attempting to break in.” Kerrick and two other officers responded.
Monroe said that when they arrived, Ferrell “charged” at the police. One of the officers unsuccessfully tried to hit Ferrell with a taser. A frightened Kerrick then fired his weapon multiple times, killing the so-called “burglar.”
Ferrell was unarmed, had not been drinking, and never threatened either the homeowner or the police, investigators said.
"The shooting of Mr. Ferrell was excessive," the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said in a statement. "Our investigation has shown that Officer Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter."
Kerrick turned himself in late Saturday, and is now being charged with voluntary manslaughter. He was freed on $50,000 bail.
Yahoo! News says “police said initially that Kerrick's actions were ‘appropriate and lawful.’ But a subsequent investigation found the officer, who joined the police department in 2011, had ‘violated the law regarding voluntary manslaughter.’ Under North Carolina law, voluntary manslaughter is defined as killing without malice using ‘excessive force’ in exercising ‘imperfect self-defense.’”
“It’s with heavy hearts and significant regrets it’s come to this," Monroe said. "Our hearts go out to the Ferrell family and many members of the CMPD family."
What are your thoughts as you read this unfortunate incident? Leave your comments below.