CMPD chief contradicts lawyer’s account of Ferrell shooting

CMPD chief contradicts lawyer’s account of Ferrell shooting


by ELY PORTILLO & CLEVE R. WOOTSON, JR. / The Charlotte Observer

Posted on September 18, 2013 at 7:45 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 18 at 11:23 PM

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Rodney Monroe said an officer told an unarmed man to stop before the man was shot and killed Saturday, contradicting the account given by the victim’s family’s attorney.

Monroe, in comments to the Observer’s editorial board, revealed the new details of the shooting. He said a Taser fired by a second officer missed 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell.

Monroe also told the editorial board that the first shots were fired from a distance of “a couple of feet,” and there was physical contact between Officer Randall Kerrick and Ferrell after the first shots had been fired.

Following the shooting, police took the extremely rare step of charging Kerrick with voluntary manslaughter. He is free on $50,000 bond, awaiting trail. His attorney has said the shooting was justified.

George Laughrun, an attorney representing Kerrick, said that he watched the dashboard camera video Wednesday, and backed up Monroe’s account.

George Laughrun said officers did command Ferrell at least three times to stop before Kerrick fired.

“His hands were not in the air,” Laughrun said of Ferrell. “At one point, his hands were partially behind his back” before the shots.

The Observer has requested the dash cam video, but CMPD denied to provide it on Wednesday. A city attorney said the video is criminal investigative material and also a personnel record.

Ferrell’s family attorney, Chris Chestnut, had told the Observer that Officer Randall Kerrick opened fire on Ferrell before any warnings or commands were given. His account was based on footage from a dashboard-mounted camera in a police cruiser.

Chestnut was allowed to view the footage on Tuesday. He said it captured the approximately 20-second encounter just before Ferrell was fatally shot. He was hit 10 times in the torso.

“There were no commands to ‘Stop, freeze, stop or I’ll shoot,’ ” Chestnut told the Observer. The first commands from officers, Chestnut said, came after the shooting stopped.

“By the time they stop shooting, then they start saying, ‘Get on the ground, get on the ground,’ ” Chestnut said. “He had already been shot.”

But in the interview with the Observer’s editorial board, Monroe said an officer told Ferrell to stop before the shooting. He was running toward Kerrick when the shots were fired.

“Orders were given by one of the officers as it relates to him stopping,” Monroe said. “There were statements given of that nature.”

Around 2:30 a.m., Ferrell crashed a Toyota Camry in the Bradfield Farms neighborhood in northeast Mecklenburg, police said. His family’s attorney says he looked for help at a home about one-quarter mile away.

A woman who saw him at the door thought he was a robber and dialed 911.

Kerrick was joined by Officers Thornell Little and Adam Neal. Kerrick, a third-year officer, was the least experienced of the three.

Monroe said that even if Ferrell didn’t stop running toward Kerrick, deadly force wasn’t justified. Ferrell was unarmed, and both Monroe and Chestnut said that was clear. Chestnut said Ferrell had his hands outstretched, and they were empty.

“Sometimes we have to put up our hands and use our nightstick and other things and sometimes just retreat to handle situation,” Monroe told the editorial board. “It can’t automatically result in use of deadly force.”

Even if Ferrell was physically larger than Kerrick, that didn’t justify shooting him, Monroe told the editorial board. “We have women on the force outweighed every day. That doesn’t give them instant justification to use deadly force.”

Monroe said the physical contact between Kerrick and Ferrell happened after the first shots were fired. He said police are still reviewing the evidence to determine if it “was actually an assault, or actually a man dying.”

The Police Department declined the Observer’s request Wednesday to talk to Monroe for further comment about the case. CMPD said no other officials would be available to discuss the case.

Chestnut could not immediately be reached. His office said he was traveling Wednesday.