A North Carolina police officer was charged with voluntary manslaughter on Saturday after police say he fatally shot an unarmed man who had apparently just survived a car crash in Charlotte and was looking for help.
The victim, Jonathan Ferrell, a 24-year-old former Florida A&M University football player, was shot multiple times and pronounced dead at the scene early Saturday morning.
The 27-year-old officer, Randall Kerrick, turned himself in to police late Saturday. He was released on a $50,000 bond.
"The shooting of Mr. Ferrell was excessive,” the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said in a statement. “Our investigation has shown that Officer Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter.”
According to police, Ferrell crashed his vehicle into the woods, climbed out of his car and walked a half-mile to the nearest house. He began “banging on the door viciously,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Chief Rodney Monroe said.
"It was quite possible he was seeking assistance based on his accident," Monroe said.
But the woman who answered the door thought Ferrell was a burglar and called police shortly after 2:30 a.m. to report an attempted break-in.
Kerrick and two other responding officers surrounded Ferrell, who “immediately charged” at the police, Monroe said. One officer tried unsuccessfully to subdue Ferrell with a taser. Kerrick then fired his weapon "several times."
“He immediately charged toward the three officers, one in particular," Monroe said. "That officer in particular fired his weapon several times, striking the individual multiple times."
“It’s with heavy hearts and significant regrets it’s come to this," Monroe added. "Our hearts go out to the Ferrell family and many members of the CMPD family."
According to the Charlotte Observer, police said initially that Kerrick's actions were “appropriate and lawful.” But a subsequent investigation found the officer, who joined the Police Department in 2011, had "violated the law regarding voluntary manslaughter." Under North Carolina law, voluntary manslaughter is defined as killing without malice using "excessive force" in exercising "imperfect self-defense," the paper said.
Monroe said there was no evidence Ferrell threatened the woman. Alcohol did not appear a factor in the crash, he added.
The two other officers involved in the incident were placed on paid administrative leave.