White Cop Kills an Unarmed Black Man. Then, a Twist

'What happened ... was surprising and consequential,' writes Leon Neyfakh
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 5, 2015 2:30 PM CDT
White Cop Kills an Unarmed Black Man. Then, a Twist
This combination of undated file photos provided by Florida A&M University and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police shows Jonathan Ferrell, left, and police officer Randall Kerrick.   (AP Photo/Florida A&M University, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police)

(Newser) – On Sept. 14, 2013, Jonathan Ferrell dropped a co-worker off at home on the outskirts of Charlotte, North Carolina, after a bar outing. It was 2am, and though the 24-year-old's blood alcohol content was later found to be below the legal limit at 0.06, he drove off the road and had a bad wreck. He managed to emerge, shoeless, and walked to a house. His loud knocks startled the homeowner who, fearing a break-in, called police. Writing for Slate, Leon Neyfakh recounts what happened next in detail, but, quite simply, an unarmed Ferrell ended up being shot to death by 27-year-old officer Randall Kerrick, who says Ferrell ignored his commands and began to run toward him. Ferrell is black and Kerrick is white. "This might sound like an all-too-familiar story," observes Neyfakh. Except it wasn't. "What happened instead was surprising and consequential," he writes.

Fewer than 18 hours after the 10 bullets entered Ferrell's body, it was decided Kerrick would be charged with voluntary manslaughter, meaning the killing was intentional but without malice. Charlotte kept doing some things differently: a "coincidental" conflict of interest meant the state's attorney general was handed the case, eliminating any local conflict of interest; the trial was held in open court; dashcam footage that had been sealed for nearly two years was shown. Ultimately, "the trial offered Charlotte something Ferguson and many other cities have been denied: a measure of reassurance that police officers are not above the law." But it didn't bring closure for all. Unable to reach a unanimous decision, the case ended in a mistrial, and the AG decided there wouldn't be a second. Prosecutors may have "failed in their effort," writes Neyfakh, but he sees the possibility that the trial "and the lens it held up to police procedure" could have a real effect. Read the piece in full at Slate. (Read more Randall Kerrick stories.)

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