The North Carolina police officer who shot an unarmed black man 10 times was indicted for voluntary manslaughter today.
Jonathan Ferrell, a 24-year-old former college football player, drove his car off the road on September 14. He knocked on doors looking for help. One woman thought he was trying to break into her house and called the police. When they arrived, Ferrell apparently ran towards them, and Randall Kerrick shot him.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department called the shooting unlawful and arrested Kerrick within 24 hours of the shooting, but getting a grand jury to indict him hasn't been so simple. Last week, a grand jury refused to indict Kerrick for voluntary manslaughter, asking for lesser charges. As the Charlotte Observer pointed out, of the 277 cases the grand jury heard that week, this was the only one that didn't result in an indictment.
The state's attorney general's office, which is trying the case, did not follow the grand jury's recommendation. Instead, it brought the same case with the same charges before a second grand jury. That one chose to indict.
There are, of course, racial undertones to the case: Ferrell was black and Kerrick is white, and the shooting happened just two months after George Zimmerman was acquitted of Trayvon Martin's murder. Like Martin, Ferrell was unarmed but he still somehow posed enough of a threat to Kerrick that he thought his only option was to shoot him many times from a few feet away. The police department called the shooting "excessive."
"For Officer Kerrick to shoot 12 times and striking Mr. Ferrell 10 times indicates more than a reflex," Charlotte NAACP president Kojo Nantambu said in September. "It smells more of hatred and rage which shows that Mr. Kerrick was predisposed in killing a Black Man and did so with extreme prejudice."
Kerrick faces three to 11 years in jail if found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, though the first grand jury's reluctance to indict him and recent history indicates that getting a conviction won't be easy.
Ferrell's family filed a civil lawsuit against the county, city, police chief and Kerrick two weeks ago.