CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Randall Wesley Kerrick, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer charged in the death of an unarmed man last weekend, comes from a family with law-enforcement ties and had long aspired to become an officer.
Kerrick was charged with voluntary manslaughter on Sept. 14, about 19 hours after he shot Jonathan Ferrell, 24, in the Bradfield Farms neighborhood of northeast Mecklenburg.
Kerrick surrendered at the Sheriff’s Office and was released on $50,000 bail. Under North Carolina sentencing guidelines, voluntary manslaughter carries a minimum punishment of three years in prison. His attorneys say the shooting was justified.
Kerrick, 27, known as “Wes,” was born in Charlotte and grew up in a rural area outside Midland, a Cabarrus County town about 35 miles west of Charlotte. He enjoyed fishing, hiking and mountain biking.
Attempts to reach Kerrick’s relatives this week were unsuccessful.
His older sister, Christine Helms, joined CMPD in 1998 and is assigned to the department’s real-time crime center. Her husband, Brian Helms, is a lieutenant with the Union County Sheriff’s Office. He was involved in a fatal shooting of a suspect this summer.
Kerrick’s mother died when he was 4 and he was raised by his father and grandparents, according to his attorneys, George Laughrun and Michael Greene. The local Fraternal Order of Police lodge has announced it will help with the Kerrick’s legal expenses.
He began working odd jobs as a 15-year-old to help support his family after his father became disabled and has been continually employed ever since, his attorneys said. He graduated from Central Cabarrus High School in May 2005.
Kerrick took criminal justice courses at Stanly Community College in Albemarle and is registered for one three-hour class this semester. He also studied at Central Piedmont Community College this summer.
“Wes always wanted to serve his community by being a police officer,” his attorneys said in a statement to the Observer.
Worked for Animal Control
Kerrick joined Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Control in March 2010 as a path to joining the police force.
“At that time, it was difficult to be hired as a police officer without a military background or a college degree,” the attorneys said. Kerrick did not enlist in the military because he had to work to help support his family, they said.
Kerrick joined CMPD in April 2011 and graduated from the police academy in October 2011. That year he married his high school sweetheart, Carrie. They live in the Saddlebrook development of Midland, about 10 miles from the house where he grew up.
After graduation from the academy, Kerrick was assigned as one of the 76 officers in the Hickory Grove Division in northeast Charlotte. A few weeks after he joined that division, Kerrick received a commendation for helping close out robbery cases, his attorneys said. Kerrick’s annual CMPD salary is $44,482.
His attorneys said Kerrick “does not recall any citizen complaints about the way he handled a traffic stop or arrest.”
Kerrick received an eight-hour disciplinary suspension on Dec. 20, 2012, according to records obtained by the Observer. CMPD has not released the reason for the suspension, but Kerrick’s attorney said it stemmed from a “write-up for a blue light and siren issue when responding to a call for service.” He also noted that the suspension is listed as “inactive,” meaning the suspension wasn’t actually served, in CMPD’s records.
Helms, Kerrick’s brother-in-law, was involved in the fatal shooting of a suspect less than two months ago. Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey said Helms was one of several officers present on July 26 when they tried to arrest a man who pointed a gun at deputies. Brent Catoe, 49, was killed.
An internal affairs investigation found no disciplinary action was warranted against the officers, and the State Bureau of Investigation is still looking into the case. Kerrick’s attorneys said Friday that he is not close to Helms.
Arrested by Kerrick
Two men Kerrick arrested told the Observer last week they had no problems with how he treated them.
Herbert Downing was arrested earlier this year by Kerrick, and charged with driving while impaired and driving with his license revoked.
Downing, 53, declined to discuss the circumstances of his arrest, but said Kerrick was polite and professional.
“He was a nice guy. Man, I have nothing bad to say about the guy,” Downing said.
In July, Kerrick arrested Treymaine Johnson, 19, on misdemeanor charges of carrying a concealed weapon. Johnson had nothing negative to say about Kerrick.
“I wouldn’t say he did anything in particular he wasn’t supposed to do,” Johnson said. He said he was in a car that was pulled over because officers thought it resembled another car used nearby in a crime. “We were accused for another crime we didn’t do.”
Both Downing’s and Johnson’s cases are pending.
Kerrick was the arresting officer in 13 cases still pending in court, mostly traffic infractions or misdemeanors. Three other cases are felonies involving larceny of a firearm, breaking and entering and theft.
Meghan Cooke, spokeswoman for the Mecklenburg District Attorney’s Office, said the office was evaluating what to do about the cases but could not comment further because of rules of professional conduct, which prohibit prosecutors from discussing pending cases.
Staff writers April Bethea, Adam Bell and Mark Washburn contributed.