Police Abuse

The Same Video That Led to Randall Kerrick's Swift Arrest Resulted in Last Week's Mistrial

The jury in the Jonathan Ferrell shooting case deadlocked based on different interpretations of his sudden flight.

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Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department

Last Friday, after deliberating for 19 hours over four days, the jury in Randall Kerrick's manslaughter trial deadlocked on the question of whether the white Charlotte, North Carolina, police officer used excessive force when he shot Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed black man, 10 times in September 2013. Interviews conducted by The Charlotte Observer over the weekend revealed that seven jurors wanted to acquit Kerrick in the first vote, and one more shifted to that side by the end. Dashcam video of the encounter, which persuaded Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe to arrest Kerrick the day of the shooting, evidently convinced eight jurors that Kerrick's self-defense claim was plausible.

Kerrick shot Ferrell while responding to a report of a home intruder from a woman who was alarmed when Ferrell banged on her door in the middle of the night, seeking help after crashing his car. The video shows Ferrell calmly approaching Kerrick and two other officers until the light from a Taser's laser sight appears on his chest, at which point he runs off camera. Prosecutors said Ferrell panicked, thinking he was about to be shot, and incidentally ran in Kerrick's direction. Defense attorneys argued that Ferrell, who was shot three seconds after Kerrick ordered him to lie on the ground, posed a clear threat that could be neutralized only with deadly force.

Most of the jurors apparently leaned toward the latter interpretation. "We saw [the video] 15 times on the first day," the foreman, Bruce Raffe, told the Observer. "We also took it back into deliberations. We felt like it was an aggressive move towards the police officer. To me, he wasn't doing anything other than making an aggressive assault."

Moses Wilson, one of the four jurors who voted to convict, said Ferrell and Kerrick both made serious mistakes that night, but Kerrick's were more egregious. "Putting Jonathan Ferrell on trial because he did not do or see or act the way the defense said he should act when he sees a police officer demeans the role of police officers in Charlotte," said Wilson, a military veteran and former constable. "People should not be afraid to walk up to a police officer." But Wilson, the only black man on the jury, agreed with other jurors that race was not a factor in the shooting. "Those who call him a racist killer are wrong too," he said. "It's not like that. He lost it."

It's pretty clear from Kerrick's tearful testimony that he honestly perceived Ferrell as a threat. It is hard to say whether that was reasonable in the circumstances, and whether deadly force was the only option, without footage of the shooting itself, which can be heard but not seen on the dashcam video. Neither of the two other officers at the scene drew a gun. One of them, Adam Neal, testified that he never considered doing so, while the other, Thornell Little (the one who tried to incapacitate Ferrell with a Taser but missed) said he could imagine shooting a suspect to stop him from taking his gun, which is what Kerrick said he did.

Prosecutors have not decided yet whether to retry Kerrick.

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  1. One of them, Adam Neal, testified that he never considered doing so, while the other, Thornell Little (the one who tried to shoot Ferrell with a Taser) said he could imagine shooting a suspect to stop him from taking his gun, which is what Kerrick said he did.

    “He tried to take my gun” is just boilerplate language that cops stamp onto a report after they kill someone.

    1. “He tried to take my gun” is just boilerplate language that cops stamp onto a report after they kill someone.

      Normally, “I feared for my life” is sufficient to close the books on an investigation into an officer-involved shooting. It’s only when the shoooting is subjected to unusually close scrutiny that they have to get specific and break out the “he went for my gun” canard.

      1. I find it to be a proximity thing. If the cop shoots the guy at point blank range, then the guy went for the cop’s gun. Every. Single. Time. No exceptions.

        1. I find it to be a proximity thing. If the cop shoots the guy at point blank range, then the guy went for the cop’s gun. Every. Single. Time. No exceptions.

          Personally that’s the way I’d play it, especially if I know the encounter is out of camera range. Maybe throw in a “get your hands away from my gun!” for the benefit of the audio. Even if I was indicted, I’d just play the tape for the jury. Between that and a courthouse full of my armed friends, there’s no way I don’t walk.

          1. Yes, yes, because a police officer really takes the job because he has an overwhelming desire to kill someone.
            Amirite?
            Having spoken to cops, who have shot someone, I can tell you it is not true.
            Even when confronted with an armed criminal, who has shot at them, it weighs on one’s conscience to take a life.

    2. At every opportunity I go right for an officer’s gun, even in casual conversation, if I’m not furtively siccing my toy poodle pit bull on them.

    3. A) Retention holsters are a thing that exists.
      B) Being a LEO in 2015 America has a lower risk of dying on the job than being a truckdriver.

      Yet the mere idea that one of the serfs a citizen has crossed the 6′ sidearm no-fly-zone apparently fills LEOs with such panic and dread that they have no choice but mag dump into said citizen.

      1. Not only is it a relatively low-risk job, many/a majority of cop deaths are from traffic and/or are self-inflicted in some way.

        The odds of a cop being killed in a violent confrontation with a serf are even lower than the raw numbers would make you think.

        1. IIRC the number was something like +70% was traffic accidents, but I’m too lazy to look for a cite.

          The problem is that Western civilization in general has become ridiculously risk averse while at the same time mathematically illiterate. So if you say ‘X increased risk’ the reaction is hardly ever ‘yeah, but by how much?’. The reaction is “ZOMG, we’re all gonna DIIIEEEE!!!!’. We’re turning, at every level, into a society of pussies.

        2. The odds of a cop being killed in a violent confrontation with a serf are even lower than the raw numbers would make you think.

          Yep, there’s a reason it makes national news every time a cop is shot, even if he or she is only wounded. It’s like a plane crash in that sense: sure, it can and does happen, but the odds are vanishingly small. Avoiding a career in law enforcement because you fear being killed in the line of duty is just as irrational as not flying for fear of crashing.

          1. Not disputing the death numbers, but have you seen a non-local news report about a cop merely being injured? I’ve really only seen stories about cops being killed.

            1. Not disputing the death numbers, but have you seen a non-local news report about a cop merely being injured? I’ve really only seen stories about cops being killed.

              Absolutely, when the injury is the result of violence, versus a car accident or something. I’ve seen plenty of stories on CNN and Fox about cops being shot and wounded. The ones hurt or killed in car accidents only appear to make the local news.

              As to the death rates, speaking only anecdotally, the last time we had a cop shot and wounded in my city was probably 2006 or 2007. I can’t remember the last one that died as a result of violence in the line of duty. And I live in a city of 1 million with a police force of about 1,700 sworn officers.

  2. Well, what do you expect? You’ve got a jury full of people who don’t want to be harassed by every cop within 200 miles of their homes for the rest of their lives. It’s really hard to blame them for not wanting to be martyrs.

    1. Exactly. I’d be interested in learning if there were any “brotherly shows of solidarity” by uniformed and armed goons in the courtroom, the Kelly Thomas trial redux.

  3. Them nigrahs, what with their superhuman strength and speed… any sane white man woulda shot thet boy.

    1. “Them nigrahs, what with their superhuman strength and speed… any sane white man woulda shot thet boy.”

      said the nigrah on the jury.

      1. Oh …now I read Spoonman and Jacob’s apology..

  4. “Moses Wilson, one of the four jurors who voted to acquit,”

    I think you mean convict.

    1. Yes. Sorry about that. It is fixed now.

  5. “He tried to take my gun” is just boilerplate language

    Exactly. If you reflexively put your hands out to defend yourself when a cop lunges at you, you’re “trying to grab his gun so you can kill him with it”.
    OFFICER SAFETY.

    1. I swear, every time I’ve read an account a of cops shooting or maiming someone up close, there was always a struggle for the officer’s gun. Every. Single. Time. No exceptions.

      Heck, just recently in the local papers a cop tried to kill someone in his own home for failure to obey. The officer testified that not only did the guy go for his gun, but he also went for a screwdriver in an attempt to stab the officer. Dude said he simply flailed about while the cop choked him. In his own home. For failure to obey.

      Nothing else happened.

      1. Every. Single. Time. No exceptions.

        Eric Garner. Kelly Thomas.

        1. Were either of them shot or maimed? No. Choked and bludgeoned, yes. But neither were shot nor maimed.

          1. Um, yes, they were both maimed.

          2. What do you think maimed means?

            1. I associated maiming with disfigurement. Maybe I chose the wrong word.

              1. You don’t think Thomas was disfigured before he died?

                1. He never had a chance to recover, so I can’t say.

                  1. Yeah. Thomas was killed by the doctors and his parents who pulled the plug, not the cops who beat him into an irreversible vegetative state. Justice was done when those cops walked, amirite?

                    I mean, isn’t that where we were in a discussion a few days ago, about how Garner wasn’t choked to death, but died of a highly inconvenient heart attack?

                  2. You could certainly take a guess though.

      2. The UC cop shot the guy for driving away. No struggle for the gun.

        1. He had a weapon already. The car.

          1. I get what you’re going for, but the cop’s claim to fear for his life there is amazingly weak.

      3. I swear, every time I’ve read an account a of cops shooting or maiming someone up close, there was always a struggle for the officer’s gun. Every. Single. Time. No exceptions.

        But this would be expected even if the Cops were angelic exemplars of justice. We would expect that perps only get shot when they go for a Cop’s gun. And so every single example of a cop shooting someone would indeed include “He went for my gun.” If not that, it would be something like “He charged me”, “Brandished a weapon” or some other reason.

        I’m not saying that is what happened in this case, just that whether these are justifiable shootings or not, you should expect the police to say this.

    2. Borg + Dalek / Doughnut = Cop.

      Resistance is irrelevant, you will be exterminate…OOoo, Yum!

  6. convinced eight jurors that Kerrick’s self-defense claim was plausible.

    Traditionally, self-defense was an affirmative defense that required the defendant to prove via a preponderance of the evidence. A higher bar than mere “plausibility”.

    Some of the more recent changes to self-defense law have shifted the burden of proof. Not sure if that is the case here, but if not, mere “plausibility” doesn’t cut the mustard. Well, for the Little People, anyway. For the King’s Men . . . .

    1. One more.

      Of course, since there is exactly zero evidence that the corpse-to-be went for anyone’s gun, other than the defendant’s, this is a case of the jury taking a murder suspects unsupported word that the killing was justified at face value. Gotta wonder how often that happens.

      1. First rule of gun confrontations: Make sure there’s only one side to the story.

  7. Another great case for body cameras. This case has no objective evidence to show exactly what happend out of dash can view. Absent that or some witnesses, proof beyond a reasonable doubt isn’t going to happen.

    1. The fact that they instantly drew a taser on him should raise a lot more attention to this. Unfortunately the media response is all too predictable. The friendly neighborhood cop idea is thoroughly debunked. To most cops everyone is a cop killer just waiting for the chance to act. Cops adopt risk averse strategies at the expense of the citizens they swear to protect and serve. Being a cop carries risk. Instead of accepting that risk as part of the job cips are all to happy to sacrifice the liberty of citizens for their own safety. The cocept of duty now revolves around protecting your fellow officers, even if they were wrong. Duty to citizens is an extinct notion.

      1. The only duty cops recognize is the duty of citizens to obey the cop’s every whim. Penalty for failing in that duty is often death.

        1. I am in no way a cop fellator but I see both sides. I would love to torture the cops that torture ( and maimed) Kelly Thomas, those sadistic SOBs. I don’t see how Kelly’s father isn’t plotting revenge. If I were he I would like to think I would be.

          Sunday a LA State trooper was shot in the back of the head with a shotgun as he walked back to his car during an otherwise routine traffic stop. The dash cam supposedly ( I haven’t seen it) shows nothing unusual going on as the cop turned around to walk back to his car. After the shotgun to the back of the head the killer stood over the cops dieing body and said, ” you’re one of the lucky ones. You’ll be dead soon”.

          He died Monday leaving a wife and kids. I haven’t heard what has happened since.

          1. When I see cops making an effort to weed out the bad apples, then I’ll believe that good cops exist. Because if good cops existed, they wouldn’t put up with bad cops. Until I see evidence of that then they’re all bad cops as far as I’m concerned. They can find sympathy in the dictionary between shit and syphilis.

            1. Fucking how? Only twelve percent of cops have ever even drawn and fired their weapon in the line of duty. A violent crime requiring a judicial use of force is rare. Ninety nine percent of their time is spent handing out traffic tickets and telling people their neighbors can hear them.

              Sure you have some real corrupt shitholes like Chicago were the whole force needs to go to jail, but most cops don’t work in those types of departments with those types of people. The most corrupt/unethical thing they ever witness is cops getting passes on speeding tickets.

              1. Bad behavior by police is not limited to killing people.

                A cop who routinely breaks the law is a bad cop. Be it traffic laws, or threatening arrest if you don’t produce IID without reasonable suspicion (when state law requires it, like it does in my state), that’s not the mark of a good cop.

                A cop who routinely lies (be it exaggeration, omission, or fabrication) on reports and in court is a bad cop. I would challenge you to find a cop who doesn’t do this. I doubt you can.

                Until integrity in police officers is the norm, as opposed to a quality that gets someone fired, I will find it difficult to believe that good cops exist.

    2. Absent that or some witnesses, proof beyond a reasonable doubt isn’t going to happen.

      The elements of murder/manslaugher were proved beyond a reasonable doubt. This cop killed that guy.

      This is about whether self-defense was proved, and who has the burden of proof.

      The cop bursting into tears on the stand . . . touching, I’m sure. And, apparently, persuasive. I have this sneaking suspicion that, as soon as the courtroom doors closed behind him, he was grinning and high-fiving his buttbuddies on the force.

      1. They already have one non-cop witness that was legitimately scared for her life because of the victim’s concussion caused behavior. That alone raises reasonable doubt that the man was behaving in completely non-threatening ways off camera.

        We need body cameras that record and cannot be turned off. Storage medium is cheap enough to justify keeping all recordings for five years and all recordings of arrests that results in charges, death, or injury in perpetuity.

        1. They already have one non-cop witness that was legitimately scared for her life because of the victim’s concussion caused behavior.

          Of course, whatever behavior might have frightened her wasn’t the behavior that got the guy killed.

          Her situation is completely different – woman at home woken up in the wee hours, etc.

          Not to mention, other people who were in her situation have been convicted of murder for gunning down people who banged on their doors in the wee hours.

          1. Shows his coordination/judgment was impaired enough that he frightened an innocent bystander. Showed cops came to scene prepped for what an innocent bystander describes as a possible home invader. That’s reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt doesn’t mean things probably went down as the accused said they did. It means it could have gone down as they said it did without introducing aliens or commie spies into the story.

            The prosecutor is in charge of proving that there wasn’t erratic behavior caused by the car accident misinterpreted by the cop off screen. It sucks that that doesn’t always get applied across board like it should, but revenge isn’t justice.

            1. That’s reasonable doubt.

              There’s no reasonable doubt that the cop killed somebody.

              The only issue is whether he reasonably feared for his life when he pulled the trigger. What the victim may have done while the killer was miles away in his car is irrelevant to that issue.

              Reasonable doubt doesn’t mean things probably went down as the accused said they did.

              No, but preponderance of the evidence means exactly that, and is the usual burden of proof that the defendant must carry to prove self-defense. I’m not sure who has the burden of proof or what it is in this case, but I don’t think anyone can say that they reasonably feared for their life over something that they heard happened to someone else while they were far away.

              I think this case has the stink of double-standard on it. Because I doubt that the unsupported word of the killer, which is inconsistent with the reactions of other witnesses on the scene, would get anyone but a cop a mistrial.

            2. The prosecutor is in charge of proving that there wasn’t erratic behavior caused by the car accident misinterpreted by the cop off screen.

              Assuming the classic self-defense requirements, the prosecutor is in charge of proving that the defendant killed the victim (done), and that the claim of self-defense is not supported by the preponderance of the evidence.

              The call from the homeowner casts little to no light on the self-defense claim. The actions of the other cops are inconsistent with the self-defense claim. All that supports it is the killer’s unsupported testimony. Its a tough sell, for anyone but a cop.

              1. Any juror voting to convict a cop is probably a target for extra scrutiny for years afterwards.

      2. Point taken.

  8. Putting Jonathan Ferrell on trial because he did not do or see or act the way the defense said he should act when he sees a police officer demeans the role of police officers in Charlotte

    Well that’s rich. You can’t hold cops to the same standards as everyone else because that would be demeaning. We are beneath them after all, can you imagine the degradation of having to follow the same laws as the serfs? It’s inhumane.

    1. I think you misunderstood that. That was the prosecution’s argument against the cop, that the victim shouldn’t be put on trial.

    2. You are correct. I had Kerrick and Ferrell confused.

  9. Oh, and I don’t think there is any question that cops have learned/are coached to say “he tried to my gun” whenever they plausibly can.

    That’s why, if I’m on a jury, I’m gonna need more than the killer’s word on it.

    To me, Kerrick failed the “reasonableness” test because two out of the three cops who were standing right there watching the whole thing didn’t draw their guns, and obviously believed, at the time, that the corpse-to-be was not a threat. That’s almost a dictionary definition of “unreasonable” – when you are the only one who reacts that way.

    1. Forever, cops said “we don’t have quotas”. I stopped believing that when I was about 12, but they kept insisting it for the next 15 years until finally an ex-cop made the news for admitting that of course they have quotas. Well, do you really think they don’t coach them about getting out of a lethal force investigation? I mean, come on. How could they not?

      1. They don’t need to coach them on anything. Cops spend a ridiculous amount of time in court and writing reports for courts. They are second only to trial lawyers and professional witnesses in practice getting their point of view across to juries.

      2. I got a speeding ticket when I was 16 and had to take a remedial driving course taught by some piece of shit state trooper who fancied himself a drill sergeant. When he was asked about quotas he vehemently denied it. Then I raised my hand and asked what would happen if one of the troopers in his unit wrote substantially fewer tickets than everyone else, or no tickets at all. Would he be chastised or fired for not doing his job? If so, then that’s a quota.

        The dude flipped out screaming at me and got in my face, I seriously thought the dude was going to punch me. He told me I was not allowed to talk for the rest of course or he would see to it that my license would be suspended until I was 18.

        His reaction told me a number of things about cops, among them that quotas are real.

  10. If Donald Trump started bleating about how his life is in mortal danger every fucking minute of every fucking day, and that THEY were going to have him rubbed out, the media wold have a field day ridiculing his paranoia and delusions.
    The cops spout their doomsday cult bullshit nonstop, and all the responsible journalists nod in unison and cluck their tongues about the insane pressure our heroes in blue are subjected to.

  11. I’d be okay with finding police officers non guilty in such situations *if* it were accepted that there are cases of poor judgment that don’t rise to the level of criminal acts, yet are enough to say that maybe someone shouldn’t be a police officer.

    Now, in NC that’s Charlotte PD’s problem, since the union doesn’t have collective bargaining rights. If the police chief wants to fire him, he can do so. Most places, though, the first thing that the union insists on is that no cop lose a job without a conviction at the very least.

  12. “Hollywood” loves its little red dots on people. Is it any wonder that someone who sees such on themselves might believe they’re about to be shot?

    1. Maybe the jury saw that the victim of the shooting didn’t look down at his chest before starting to run, eliminating the prosecution’s claim that the “red dots” caused his panic.
      That’s how I saw the video.
      That leaves open the idea that the cop believed the guy was “advancing” on him, for no reason other than to try to do him harm.
      Remember, the prosecution’s case must be devoid of holes, through which reasonable doubt can flow.
      Personally, as a former LEO, there seemed no evidence this guy was armed and, even if he was just trying to escape, shooting wasn’t justified. If the off-camera action involved closer proximity to the cop, than just trying to evade capture, it might have been reasonable.
      Haven’t seen what evidence existed as to the location of the wounds on the shooting victim and his location, when shot, with respect to the location of the cop. Those kinds of things play a role, too, as they did in the Michael Brown case.

  13. “Defense attorneys argued that Ferrell, who was shot three seconds after Kerrick ordered him to lie on the ground, posed a clear threat that could be neutralized only with deadly force.”

    Failure to comply is NOT punishable by death, God Damn It!!!

    1. It is if the failure convinces the cop that you mean to do him harm.
      Failure to “drop the gun” (yes, I know, that isn’t the case, here) is punishable by death, or serious bodily harm.
      The comment of Jonathon|8.26.15 @ 1:49AM is absolutely correct.

  14. The moral to this story/incident is quite simple, when the police tell you to do something and you are innocent of any wrong doing, simply comply and do so in a way that cannot be interpreted as offensive in any way. In the worst case, if you are guilty of wrong doing, you at least will remain alive to stand trial.

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