Jonathan Ferrell (1988-2013) was an unarmed black American man shot dead by the police. The Charlotte/Mecklenberg county police in North Carolina gunned him down in the early hours of Saturday, September 14th 2013.
The police received a call at 2.30am from a woman in Bradfield Farms, an upscale suburb of Charlotte. She said a man was pounding on the door. She thought it was her husband, who was working late. so she opened the door. When she saw it was not her husband, she slammed the door, pushed the panic button on her house alarm and called the police. The man continued to try to get her attention.
When the police arrived they found a man not far from her house who “fit the description”. He ran towards them – or “charged” or “advanced” maybe. One of three police officers shot a Taser, a stun gun. When that failed to stop him, another officer, Randall Kerrick, shot him in the chest several times. The man, Jonathan Ferrell, died at the scene.
About a half mile away they found Ferrell’s car smashed into some trees. Apparently after the accident Ferrell kicked out the back window of his car to escape and sought help at the first house he found. It seems he thought the police had come to help him and ran towards them.
Officer Kerrick was arrested later that day and charged with voluntary manslaughter. Under North Carolina law that means killing without malice but using “excessive force” in exercising “imperfect self-defense.” That seems light since he could hardly be in fear for his life, but all too often in these cases the officer is not even arrested.
The NAACP wants him charged with murder, noting that there is a “tradition in this country to be able to kill innocent black men.”
Gunning down an unarmed person who is outnumbered three to one seems to be due to either poor training or racist stereotypes about black men.
Ferrell studied chemistry and played football at Florida A&M University. He had moved to North Carolina just months before to be near his fiancee and continue his education. He was working at both Dillard’s and Best Buy. He had no police record. Family and friends say he was not a troubled or violent person. He would have turned 25 next month.
It is unclear, though, whether he ever smoked marijuana or let his pants sag, so there might have been just cause to gun him down (*acid sarcasm*).
Bradfield Farms: although it has four tennis courts, two swimming pools and a clubhouse, it is hardly some hyperwhite haven crawling with racist fear of black people: the neighbourhood is 34% black and 59% white in a county that is 28% black and 64% white.
Kerrick, the white killer cop, on the other hand, does come from a hyperwhite part of metropolitan Charlotte: Midland, whose census tract is 92% white and 4% black.
– Abagond, 2013.
Update (August 24th 2015): After the first grand jury refused to charge Officer Kerrick with a crime, the second one charged him with voluntary manslaughter. It went to trial. The jury was racially mixed, a victory in its own right. But the jury deadlocked and the judge declared a mistrial. No word yet on whether prosecutors will try Kerrick again.
Update (August 31st): The state attorney general has decided not to retry Randall Kerrick, thinking it will just end in another hung jury.
- The black brute stereotype
- The perfect victim
- The police
- The black-on-black crime argument – because you know someone is going to bring it up
- Trayvon Martin
- George Zimmerman is found not guilty – this was just two months ago and hangs over this case
- Yet more unarmed black people killed by the police:
- Phantom Caucasian Justice