When a police officer gunned down an unarmed man who had just been in a car accident outside Charlotte, N.C. last month, it looked like a clear case of excessive force. Jonathan Ferrell, a former football player at Florida A&M University, was trying to get help when Officer Randall Kerrick shot him 10 times.
Ferrell died almost instantly.
But now, police organizations are complaining that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe was too quick to judge the 27-year-old Kerrick when he suspended the officer and hit him with a voluntary manslaughter charge less than 24 hours after the incident.
Other critics of the move say that Kerrick may have a case for killing Ferrell, 24, under North Carolina’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
“What it does is it shakes their confidence because, like it or not, most cops like to think their department has their back,” Randy Hagler, president of the North Carolina Fraternal Order of Police, told the Associated Press. “That’s not to say the department is going to cover anything up. They just want the department to give them a fair shake. That’s all we ask for.”
The case is complicated by the fact that Ferrell is African-American while the officer who killed him is white. Both are pictured at right.
“Kerrick is entitled to the same protection under the law that a civilian would get. That means he can defend himself by using North Carolina’s 2011 stand-your-ground law,” wrote Doug Clark, an editorial writer for Greensboro’s News & Record newspaper.
The state’s law says, “a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat in any place he or she has the lawful right to be.”
Clark wrote that the ex-football player “presumably was big, strong and fast. By running toward the officer and refusing to get down, did he give Kerrick in that instant provocation to fire?”
Police officers say that feeling inhibitions about shooting people could put their own lives in danger.
“My concern is we’re going to have an officer — any officer someplace in the country — hesitate when they are justified in taking action and lose their life,” Daniel Trelka, police chief of Waterloo, Iowa, told the AP.
SOURCES: Associated Press,Greensboro News & Record