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Grand jury indicts North Carolina police officer in fatal shooting of unarmed black man

By Travis Gettys
Wednesday, January 29, 2014 10:52 EDT
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A North Carolina police officer was indicted in the shooting death of an unarmed man who had crashed his car after prosecutors presented the case to a second grand jury.

Police Officer Randall Kerrick was indicted Monday on one count of voluntary manslaughter, reported the Charlotte Observer, just one week after a previous grand jury declined to indict him on voluntary manslaughter in the Sept. 14 shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell.

The officer shot the former Florida A&M football player 10 times after Ferrell crashed into a tree and sought help at a nearby home.

The homeowner called police, believing the 24-year-old intended to break in, and Kerrick, who is white, fired his service weapon 12 times at Ferrell, who was black.

Police said Ferrell ignored repeated commands by officers to lie down on the ground and continued to approach them

If convicted, the 28-year-old Kerrick could be spend between three and 11 years in prison.

His arrest and indictment are the first time in more than 30 years that a Charlotte police officer has been charged in connection with a shooting while on duty.

The grand jury that indicted Kerrick on the lesser charge was not the same panel that refused to indict him on voluntary manslaughter.

Two grand jury panels alternate weeks during their three- to six-month terms.

Defense attorneys tried to block prosecutors from presenting the evidence a second time on a lesser charge, arguing that their comments about the case and a protest that was under way a block from the courthouse compromised the officer’s chance at a fair hearing.

“How in the world is that grand jury supposed to go into that courtroom and make a decision when you’ve also got the NAACP outside?” said defense attorney Michael Greene. “How is Randall Kerrick supposed to get a fair trial and due process?”

But Superior Court Judge Bob Bell said he could find no legal basis to stop the grand jury hearing, which featured twice as many witnesses as the previous hearing.

Prosecutors declined to say whether grand jury members had viewed a police dashboard camera video of the shooting, which has not yet been made public.

But attorneys for the Ferrell family, who have sued Kerrick, said that they believe the grand jury watched the video based on comments made to them by prosecutors.

The trial will likely serve as a test of a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court’s based on another case that involved Charlotte police, who were accused of mistreating a diabetic black man five years earlier.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist argued in the ruling that officers must respond in an “objectively reasonable” manner based on the facts and circumstances confronting them.

Those include, the justice wrote, “the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest.”

Rehnquist also asked whether another officer would respond in the same manner.

Kerrick, a three-year veteran, was the least experienced of three officers who responded to the homeowner’s 911 call, and he was the only officer to use his gun.
One officer fired his Taser stun gun but missed.

Watch this video report posted online by the Charlotte Observer:

 
 
 
 
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