Police Dashcam Video in Shooting Case Aired

     (CN) – Jurors viewed dashcam footage and heard the sounds of a white Charlotte, N.C., police officer shooting an unarmed black man to death on Wednesday, the third day of the officer’s voluntary manslaughter trial.
     The video recorded by dashboard camera of a police cruiser runs out just before the shooting begins, but the images and the audio captured by an officer’s uniform microphone shed light on very different accounts of what happened the night when ex-Florida A&M football player Jonathan Ferrell was killed.
     The case drew national attention in 2013 when Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick shot Ferrell 10 times after the young man supposedly went to a house for help after a car accident.
     According to the dead man’s family, Ferrell, 24, had been out with friends and had a minor car accident after driving one of those friends home in a neighborhood with which he was not familiar. Finding his car stuck, Ferrell approached the nearest home and knocked on the door, evidently alarming the woman who was alone inside.
     She called 911 because she feared someone was trying to break in. Officer Kerrick’s fate hinges on what jurors come to believe happened next.
     A wrongful death suit filed by Ferrell’s family claimed Kerrick used “stealth and surprise” when approaching Ferrell and shot him without warning as he held up his hands. The defense says Ferrell never asked for help at the home of Sarah McCartney and that he charged the police officers who were responding to a “breaking and entering” call.
     The family settled its claims against the city of Charlotte for $2.25 million in May, and said they would seek justice through Kerrick’s trial.
     In his opening statement on Monday, Kerrick’s attorney said Ferrell was aggressive, pounding his thighs and taunting Kerrick, yelling, “Shoot me! Shoot me!” The defense has argued that the officer was acting in self-defense and that he was injured at the time of the incident. A paramedic who examined Kerrick said he had a swollen jaw, a cut inside his cheek, and blood on his lips.
     The dashcam video sheds some light on these differing accounts, but it is still not clear what happened because the action between Ferrell and Kerrick occur off-screen. The video was shot by a camera on the dashboard of Officer Adam Neal’s police car.
     It begins with Neal driving toward the Bradfield Farms neighborhood near Charlotte in response to the call for back-up. When Neal gets to the scene, Kerrick’s police car comes into view where it is parked in front of McCartney’s home. Neal follows as Kerrick speeds down a road where Ferrell appears in the distance, his green shirt clear in the headlights.
     They stop and Ferrell walks up to them. He’s not aggressive, but his hands are not raised. Two red Taser lights shine on Ferrell’s chest, and he starts to run toward the police officers. One fires a Taser, and Ferrell disappears off-screen between the parked police cars. Kerrick’s voice can be heard yelling, “Get on the ground” three times. There’s a thumping noise and then shots are repeatedly fired. After they stop, Kerrick yells, “Don’t move. Don’t move.”
     Neal testified that he heard the shots from Kerrick’s pistol before he could see him. Neal never drew his weapon even though he expected a struggle. He told the jury that he could see Kerrick on the ground with Ferrell draped over his lower legs. He said Ferrell was trying to crawl up the officer’s legs and that his arms were making a swimming motion, but he didn’t see him throw any punches.
     Defense attorney Michael Greene, who argued that Ferrell was on top of Kerrick during most of the gunfire, said, “Ladies and gentlemen, this case is not about race. It never was about race.
     “This case was about choices – Jonathan Ferrell’s bad choices,” Greene said
     The prosecution says Kerrick used excessive force when he shot the unarmed man 10 times, but Kenneth Williams, a law professor from South Texas College of Law in Houston, and Bowling Green University criminologist Philip Stinson told The Charlotte Observer that the defense attorneys can make a strong case that their client acted appropriately since Ferrell is seen on the video running toward the officers.
     “If they have reasonable belief that someone is dangerous, they can use deadly force,” Williams told the newspaper. “They don’t have to be right. They just have to be reasonable.” The video could help the jury decide that Kerrick was justified, especially since they were responding to a breaking and entering call and they believed to have the suspect in sight.
     While the experts say the video will probably help the defense, people watching in the courtroom remained divided. Kerrick supporters said the video proves the officer’s innocence. Those who sat on the side of the Ferrell family weren’t convinced, maintaining that the shooting was excessive and Ferrell should still be alive today.

%d bloggers like this: