Police Abuse

Video Shows Seconds Before Cop Shot Jonathan Ferrell 10 Times

Ferrell is initially calm, then runs when light from a laser sight hits his chest.

|

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department

Last week jurors in the manslaughter trial of North Carolina police officer Randall Kerrick were shown the dashcam video that convinced Kerrick's boss, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe, to arrest him the day Kerrick shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell. Early in the morning on September 14, 2013, Ferrell crashed his car and went looking for help at a nearby house, where he was mistaken for a burglar. The 34-second video, which was not publicly released prior to the trial, shows what happened after Kerrick and two other officers arrived at the scene in response to the report of a home intruder.

Ferrell initially walks calmly toward the officers, until the light from a stun gun's laser sight appears on his chest. Then he takes off, running between two patrol cars. Ferrell is now off camera, but Kerrick can be heard repeatedly ordering him to the ground. Within three seconds of the first command, Kerrick fires four rounds, then another eight. From the moment that Ferrell starts running until Kerrick completely empties his weapon, 11 seconds elapse.

Prosecutors argue that Ferrell ran between the police cars because he was alarmed by the laser lights on his chest, which as far as he knew came from a firearm loaded with bullets instead of a stun gun loaded with barbed, electricity-delivering darts. They say he fell to the ground after Kerrick fired four rounds at him but that Kerrick, who also had fallen to the ground after stumbling in a ditch while walking backward, fired eight more rounds because Ferrell kept moving. Ten of the rounds struck Ferrell.

Shortly after the shooting, in a videotaped interview that the jury saw on Friday, Kerrick said he fired when Ferrell failed to obey his commands and got within 10 feet or so of him. "It did not faze him," he said. "He kept coming toward me. I fired again." Kerrick said he ended up on the ground but he wasn't sure how, and Ferrell began climbing up his legs. "There was nothing I could do to get him off of me," he said. "Then I fired again." By contrast, in his opening statement last week, Kerrick's lawyer said Ferrell had tackled him and punched him in the face while trying to grab his gun.

Kerrick did not mention being tackled or punched in the face during the interview, but an EMT testified that he mentioned a punch in face at the scene and had an injury consistent with that. Kerrick's lawyer said Ferrell's DNA was found on the slide and trigger of Kerrick's gun, which is consistent with an attempt to grab the weapon. But if Ferrell ducked between the cars out of fear, running toward Kerrick only by accident, three seconds is an awfully short time for him to process Kerrick's command, recognize him as a police officer who intended him no harm (maybe), and get down on the ground. Once he had been shot, an attempt to grab the gun of a man who seemed intent on killing him would be perfectly understandable and consistent with the physical evidence described by the defense.

Kerrick will get a chance to flesh out his self-defense claim as the trial continues this week, and perhaps he will present eyewitnesses who can back up his account. But we already know that the two other officers at the scene did not perceive Ferrell as a big enough threat to draw their own guns, and Ferrell's demeanor when he first sees the cops hardly suggests an aggressive intent.

NEXT: Surviving Nagasaki

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “They say he fell to the ground after Kerrick fired four rounds at him but that Kerrick, who also had fallen to the ground after stumbling in a ditch while walking backward, fired eight more rounds because Ferrell kept moving.”

    Hero. The training really kicked in.

  2. 3 seconds?! I think the only question now is panic fire or premeditated execution.

    1. It would be tough to argue panic fire when he was the only one to shoot. In the video, it looks like they’re rolling 3 deep.

      1. So he was going to empty a magazine, no matter what.

        1. “Honey, tonight is the night I get to kill a guy, and then vacation See you tomorrow morning.”

          1. Bleh. What am I thinking? Of course that guy is still single.

            1. Not for long, he killed a man for not respecting his authority. There will be thin blue line groupies all over his nuts.

              1. Or he can just extort sex in lieu of DUI citations, etc.

                1. Why buy the milk when you can threaten to take the cow to jail for free?

              2. But can he marry tulpa in south carolina yet?

  3. IMO we are WAY to focused on an officer of the state murdering an innocent man here. Can we please get to the important considerations like how will this impact the presidential primaries, and how Team Blue/Team Red is totally exploiting this heroic police officers heroism for cynical political gain? Also lets get a few comments about Kochtapus/Soros going, amirite?

    We only have a few hours before another cop murders someone publicly so lets get the most partisan points as possible out of this before we repeat the entire refrain for the next one. Thanks guys! GO TEAM!

    1. You must run a major news publication or channel. If you don’t you have total understanding of what it takes!

  4. Hey Robert, want to wade onto this thread and explain how shooting this guy is OK? After all he might be a supporter of socialism.

    1. Wait, that’s bad? I must have missed that in the training.

  5. If this keeps occurring, police really will need to fear for their lives instead of just being pants-shitting cowards scared of every shadow.

    1. The suspect failed to obey the officer’s command as any well-trained animal would, leading the officer to believe that the suspect might be a human being, capable of rational thought and therefore a lethal threat. You don’t wait for the apex predator to attack you if you are an animal as low on the food chain as a pig.

  6. As a modern American unionized and politically protected officer of the “law” you have two choices.

    1. Accept that your choice to protect and serve the public comes with inherent risk. If you are unable or unwilling to put yourself in threatening situations and try to mitigate risk by violating citizens rights then you have no business being a police officer.

    2. Operate above the law. Any perceived threat can be met with lethal force. Fuck you, that’s why. Raid a medical marijuana shop and consume the merchandise, fuck you citizen. Beat mentally ill people to death because they don’t respect your authority, fuck you citizen. Harass everyone for petty chicken shit violations to collect revenue, fuck you citizen. Now pay me my annual six figure pension for my public service and don’t forget to go fuck yourself.

    Along as #2 is an option it will unfortunately be the rule. Human nature demands it. To believe the perverse incentives could produce any other outcome is the denial of reality.

  7. Ferrell’s demeanor when he first sees the cops hardly suggests an aggressive intent.

    True, but running toward the cops might certainly be perceived that way.

    I’m not saying this was a good shoot, but Jeebus, people can sure act stupid around cops. And acting stupid around cops can get you hurt or killed. Cops are armed and dangerous, as we are constantly reminded around here. So, it behooves everyone to treat them as dangerous, which means (among other things) don’t run towards them.

    There’s a big WaPo article today about all the “unarmed black men” killed by police this year. It’s getting a lot of pushback in the comments.

    1. Really? That’s what you’re going with?

      This list of things that one supposedly “must do” and “must avoid doing” around cops in order to ensure one is not murdered is starting to take on overtones of superstition.

      *makes sign to ward off evil*

        1. OK, then how should anyone with even a pinch of common sense act around them?

          Well, let’s examine that. Maybe running toward them is bad, so running away should be safe(r), right? Well, no. Answering your door is also right out.

          More links below. Because apparently there are rules.

          1. You might think unarmed and with your hands in the air would be a common sense response to police, and you would be wrong.

            Tell you what, Papaya. It’ll be quicker if you give me the definitive list of Common Sense Acts which will Keep Everyone Safe in the presence of police, and if I cannot find a video of police brutalizing a citizen who is in fact doing what you’ve listed, then we’ll agree that the action is safe until proven otherwise.

            1. Sorry, this is mostly straw man stuff. I’ve never said that there aren’t police abuses, or that acting the right way will always protect you. Not smoking vastly decreases your chances of lung cancer, but you still might get it. You have to play the odds, and the odds are that doing stupid things with the cops vastly increases your chances of something bad happening to you.

              My point is that in too many of the “OMG Police Abuse!!” stories, if you read the details, the victims often did very stupid things, like fighting with them, or running towards them. (Even running away is stupid.) Such stories may serve to inflame the emotions, but they detract from (and distract from) the real stories of police abuse.

              1. I have a buddy who ives in the same police jurisdiction as I do. He is my same age and same sociak and partying habits. He has had his ass severely beat down by the local police twice. Myself, I have never had a a cop put his hand on me in anger.

                The difference ? He is a North East Coast Yankee with a smart mouth and a chip on his shoulder. He thinks that the louder you shout at someone the righter you are.

                Texas cops don’t think like that. .

                I am a multi generation Texan with a smooth talking attitude who knows it’s stupid to back talk the cops on the scene. Be mild, be calm, and put up with their shit until you can get your lawyer on the phone.

                In the mean time he has had his jaw broken by a nightstick and the other time had to go to the hospital for general injuries. For the same two arrests I have had a cop appoligize to me that he has to cuff me on the way down town because it is his orders. I had a piece of a joint on me once and was able to throw it away because they weren’t mad at, or afraid of me and didn’t pay me any attention.

                We are both white men the same age.

                He voted for Obama twice. I advised him against it. Twice.

                1. Yup. Good manners and good sense would end some noticeable fraction of police abuse events, and then we could focus on the really abusive cops, and not the ones who just lost their temper because they were dealing with jerks without sense or manners. And people wouldn’t be so quick to swallow b.s. about bogus saints like Michael Brown.

          2. Act as you would around any psychopath with a gun and hair trigger.

        2. Not only that, but I’m afraid the publicity is having the opposite of the effect we’d want it to have. Cops are getting the news, then realizing they can act as badly as the next 1. It’s almost enough to make me think news of these incidents should be suppressed.

    2. Aren’t cops supposed to be the ones with training, equipment and process to assist us panic-prone ‘civilians’ in times of stress? Isn’t that why we’re supposed to let the ‘professionals’ handle tense situations? If you have to assume that – when you’re really having a shitty day/night – adding cops to it now makes any wrong move very likely to be lethal, then what the hell good are cops?

      I mean, you could functionally make exactly the same statement about cobras, a pack of wild dogs, or open flame (“… acting stupid around a pack of wild dogs can get you hurt or killed”, yep, still works); is that the standard we hold cops to now?

      1. Part of the problem is that cops are often dealing with dangerous scumbags, and so they develop a self-protective cynicism. The same sort of thing happens with emergency room personnel. You should hear their unfiltered conversation about the people they regularly have to deal with. Your illusions about kind and concerned medical personnel will disappear. They have harsh, cynical, even “racist” terms for a lot of the types of people they commonly deal with.

        Cops are more often in physical danger, though, plus they are armed. So it’s common sense to treat them carefully and not make them think you are danger to them. Of course, lots of people lack common sense.

        1. “Cops are more often in physical danger” is absolute bullshit and easily debunked.

          1. Beat me to it.

          2. You’re going to debunk the idea that being cop is physically riskier than working in an emergency room? Please, be my guest. I want to see that.

        2. This is such self-serving bullshit.

          Sorry, Papaya. It sounds to me like you’ve bought into a completely bullshit narrative.

          Let me offer these two thoughts: First, we expect vastly higher standards from military personnel, who are walking around in actual combat zones, where the local population is (a) armed, (b) dangerous, (c) in many areas involved in the drug trade/opium production, (d) steeped in a culture that settles problems with violence routinely, and, in some areas, (e) hostile to US military personnel and actively trying to kill them.

          We don’t allow Lance Corporals to “shoot first, ask questions later” and if they do, we court-martial them. In fact, we frequently court-martial them for stupid shit, like pissing on the bodies of guys that we allowed them to kill just minutes before. (I’m not saying that’s a good thing, btw, but it ain’t worse than killing the guys, FFS).

          (cont)

          1. Second, statistically speaking, a cop’s risk of being killed in the line of duty by perp violence is low. Very low. IOW, there is no factual basis for the claim that cops need to be hyper-vigilant and start shooting because of how HIGH-RISK (!!!!11!!) their job is.

            There are about 146 cop deaths per year for the last 10. A big chunk of those are accidents. On average just about half cop deaths are actually a result of some kind of violent encounter with the maggotry. In short – for all of the near 1,000,000 LEOs, less than 70 die a year from violence. By comparison, over 100 firefighters die every year, on average (not counting 9/11).

            And, just in case you were wondering, cops don’t even make the Top 10 most dangerous jobs.

            http://www.forbes.com/sites/ja…..st-jobs-2/

            So, please, stop with that nonsense. It’s demonstrable bullshit. I’m tired of hearing that nonsense repeated as fact and justification for trigger-happy jackasses.

            1. You’re refuting things I’m not stating.

              I’m not saying we shouldn’t have high standards.

              I don’t advocate or excuse “shoot first, ask questions later” behavior. I’m simply explaining one reason why it happens.

              Measuring risk by death counts is too narrow. I agree that car accidents don’t count, but every physical attack counts as a risk. So how many are injured every year? How many are in fights but not injured?

              If the goal is to reduce police abuse, one good way of doing that is to avoid doing things that often trigger police abuse. It’s not “blaming the victim” or excusing abuse, it’s common sense.

        3. No one is saying cops have to like the people they deal with. When emergency personnel start shooting people that mouth off to them in the ER, I’m going to think that’s a problem too.

        4. My wife’s a nurse, in an urban hospital. She’s come home beaten and bruised and telling me how much she’s hoping some crazy/gangbanger/druggie gets discharged or dies during the day so they’re not there when she goes back. So yeah, no illusions.

          The thing is, she has to go through layers of oversight to even restrain a clearly dangerous person, and can never initiate force even when she has clear reason to fear for her safety. Because if she doesn’t she gets arrested/sued and faces losing her license. Cops get a vacation.

  8. Interesting how there seems to be only one dash-cam video available. Video from the other two cars might help us get a better view of what happened. You’d think the officer would want that video at his trial since it would obviously exonerate him, right? Oh, shit. Maybe it does the exact oposite of exonerating him and clearly shows him to be a murderer like we currently have to assume all cops are. So was there perhaps some destruction of evidence? I wonder how difficult it would be to just wipe the video then tell everyone they didn’t have the dash-cam running on those cars.

    1. Maybe it does the exact opposite of exonerating him and clearly shows him to be a murderer like we currently have to assume an abundance of evidence to perceive all cops are.

      FTFY. Good point on the other dashcams.

      1. This video is from the car farthest back, no? So the others would likely show less. There were two cars parked in the street, and this guy veered to the left and illuminated the guy with his headlights before getting out.

  9. An individual is one step away from having their lives ruined or taken from them by interacting with police.

    Do people go into the store that has armed security fearing for their lives? Are they scared to run down the shopping mall hallway because security might perceive them as a threat, or shoplifter and empty their clip into the individual?

    This is why individuals should demand the private production of security, instead of being extorted to pay for a violent monopoly that serves and protects the state.

    1. Private security is all well and good for what they do, but they don’t perform all the functions of police. Once a criminal leaves the scene of the crime, private security isn’t able to do jack squat.

      1. So you’ve never heard of a private investigator? Never heard of recovery services?

        What other “functions” are only top men able to handle? Please tell us. The only other functions you probably can realistically cover are violence and violations of the liberty of individuals , which wouldn’t fly if a company were subject to market forces, and it’s employees paid for without extortion.

  10. “Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.” St. George Tucker

  11. It seems clear Randall Kerrick came upon a scene full of unknowns and escalated it to violence rather quickly. Fortunately for the defense, acting aggressively in unknown situations usually works in their favor with juries instead of being something that points to irresponsibility or cowardice. It’s not whether the victim was a threat, it’s whether the policeman could know for sure he wasn’t.

    1. ^^^^ THIS.

      Yahtzee.

      The legal standard has been completely changed. It’s like “legislative deference” by the Supreme Court. You start by putting your finger on the scale and changing the standard. Of course, I’m all for BARD in criminal trials. What I’m not for is special standards of deference for the King’s Men.

      And if someone wants to bring up why I think it’s different for the military, we can have that discussion, but see comment above – cops are not a fucking occupying force. They are not in “Indian Country” every day on their beat. They’re in their own goddamn neighborhoods that they patrol all the fucking time – and they’re still acting like panicked shit-heads in their interactions with citizens.

  12. OT: What it’s like to be a black cop in Ferguson.

    Told of Kirkwood’s discomfiting experiences, Dilworth says that he wishes the rookie officer had come to him. “If he was subjected to that, then I need to apologize to him,” says Dilworth, who was not Kirkwood’s supervisor. “I would have got him transferred to another squad. Because you treat people the way you want to be treated ? black, white, grey, I don’t care what color you are.”

    Sgt. Harry Dilworth seems to misunderstand either the problem or the solution.

  13. But why did he run in that direction? It’s weird.

    1. Yes, not to blame the victim, but I played that segment over and over, and I keep thinking “WTF?” With no warning or justification, he just starts charging straight at the cop. There are cop cars all around, so it’s not like he doesn’t know they’re cops. It strikes me as the absolute dumbest thing he could do. No, it didn’t warrant the death penalty, but wow, it really wasn’t smart.

      1. Except I wouldn’t use the term “charging”. He kinda jogs his way over…. not full sprint, not casual jog…. but kinda in a relaxed demeanor.. really weird. He certainly doesn’t look like he’s in “I’m about to jump you” mode.

        I don’t think anybody says anything before he starts running either, which is weird. He takes a couple of steps – and then you hear shouts of “get on the ground”. Strange that you would point a taser at someone before you say anything at all to some guy walking down the sidewalk.

        1. Well, supposedly they were responding to the scene with him as suspected burglar. But still, you’d think they would say something as they pointed a taser at him, yeah.

  14. The article suggests that they lit him up with a taser sight and he saw red dots on his chest so he charged. That is the adage: you charge a gun because you can’t outrun it; and run from a knife – because you can.

    I can’t see that from this video, but it’s fascinating to consider. Black kid, disoriented from a car accident, wandering around, sees three cop cars come pulling up to him. He walks towards them and doesn’t appear alarmed, then (if true) they immediately draw and put the taser sights on him and start screaming, he sees taser sights and immediately jumps forward, presumably thinking he’s about to be shot for no fucking reason other than that he might be the next black guy to get executed by cops for simply being black, male, large, and out late at night.

    Now, I don’t say this is at all a truism, but it makes perfect sense where we create this horrific feedback loop. Black activists tell everyone the cops are racist and whip crowds into frenzy and some certainly are). Cops even get killed by what look like targeted acts of violence. Cops now respond to every call out like they’re in fucking Fort Apache, thus turning even innocent citizens into targets. (cont)

    1. Innocent targ- er citizens, now perceive they might be executed simply for being in wrong place at wrong time, and thus every encounter with police now feels like possible deadly showdown, amping up for ever-increasing levels of violence.

      Add more race-baiting and acquittals of the Thin Blue Line by fedgov and stategov officials and see where this is headed.

    2. That is the adage: you charge a gun because you can’t outrun it; and run from a knife – because you can.

      Sounds like a pretty stupid adage. Running from a gun makes a tougher shot, especially if you don’t run straight. Not sure what charging would accomplish unless you’re already right next to the gunman.

  15. Yeah, it was strange that he took off running in that direction. It had to be pretty frightening to be in an accident, then go for help only to have the door slammed in your face. Then as you walk down the sidewalk, three cop cars speed up to you and cops jump out drawing weapons (tasers, but how are you to know that). That would scare the crap out of anybody. With all of that craziness happening in such a short time, it looks like he panicked and ran without any sort of plan. He certainly didn’t look to be running in attack mode. Almost like jog mode.

    The shooter got a weird experience too. He jumps out of his car and within a couple of seconds a big dude starts running right at him for no apparent reason.

    I’d say arguing that he freaked out and panic fired because he mistook the situation is a pretty reasonable way to go. The officer sounds pretty shaken up in the immediate aftermath – his voice is pretty shaky as he asks about his lip.

    Too bad we don’t have bodycam video. It sure didn’t look like there was any intent to assault the police as he jogged past the car – he kinda makes the shoulder-duck juke move that you make when you are weaving through traffic.

    Random guess, he accidentally ran into the shooter as he was disoriented and trying to get away. He gets shot and tries to get up and gets shot a bunch more times. This would explain the officer’s perception of being attacked and hit – maybe he caught a forehead to the face as they collided.

    1. All of which goes to point out a serious problem with our training and equipping of our police.

      Let’s say the officer’s perception was actually correct…. that he was being attacked by this ‘suspect’. WTF possible justification is there for pulling out a gun when you’ve got a whole bunch of police all around you? The guy isn’t armed so far as you can tell, so non-lethal should be the way to go, even if the other officers are not present.

      Which brings up the question of carrying guns…. is it really wise to have all of the police carrying all of the time? Nobody is perfect – everybody makes mistakes. And if you have your gun handy at all times and in all conflicts, aren’t we just guaranteed to have a certain number of people die because of a mistake?

      The only thing it looks like they did well is that nobody else panicked and joined in. Usually in this situation, once one shot is fired, everyone else starts shooting too. Maybe the close proximity of their colleague stayed their trigger fingers? If so, that speaks well of the discipline of the other officers. With shooters like we’ve seen so often (e.g. Jose Guerena), the officer on the ground stood a really good chance of getting hit by friendly fire.

      1. “All of which goes to point out a serious problem with our training and equipping of our police.”

        It’s not even about that. No matter how you equip and train them, they are the arm of the state with qualified immunity. The private production of security through the voices and choices of individuals Is the only way liberty can be respected.

    2. I suspect he might not’ve even noticed the officers in his path. With headlights shining in his eyes and the officers directly next to the headlights the contrast would’ve been too great for him to see anything but the headlights and what they illuminated.

  16. Have any of you who are critical of the officer actually watched the video? I’m 100% opposed to excessive force by police. Some things may have happened off camera that bring to question the additional shots. But think logically for a minute; suppose you were in the same situation as this officer and the man comes charging directly at you are you just going to let him attack you? I

    mean you Mr./Mrs. Citizen, you’re not wearing a uniform, not wearing a badge, some guy starts charging you like this do you think your life is in danger? We can’t require our police officers, nor our citizens, to actually let someone attack them before responding with force to stop the attack.

    Also about the other officers not feeling threatened or not firing; maybe he wasn’t charging straight at them? There are a lot of unknown facts here, and this officer may have done wrong, but from the video I have a hard time condemning him for defending his life – as each of us has the right to do.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.