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Attorney: No warning before volley of fatal shots from CMPD officer

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Ely Portillo

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  • 911 call in Ferrell case (graphic language)
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    Excerpt from 911 Call

    About 2:46 a.m. Saturday. For more than 10 minutes, the frightened resident has been pleading with a 911 dispatcher for help and asking when police would arrive.

    DISPATCHER: OK, I’m showing officers should be there right now. They’re pulling up. Can you see them?...

    RESIDENT: Yeah, yeah. Oh my God, tell them to come. What should I do?

    (Male voice heard yelling outside, unintelligible)

    DISPATCHER: Where’s the officer? Can you see the officer?

    RESIDENT: Yeah, he got out of the car… Wait... There’s two cops, but one of them... Oh my God, where is he going? Why is he running? ... Why are they leaving? They’re leaving.

    DISPATCHER: They might have seen him, OK? They didn’t leave you. ... Don’t go out there. …

    Family attorney’s account, based on police video

    Chris Chestnut, attorney for Jonathan Ferrell’s family, gave this account based on his viewing of a police dashboard camera video.

    Ferrell was walking towards officers when he came into the dashboard camera’s view, Chestnut Police officers pointed their Tasers at Ferrell’s chest. “You see two laser beams right on his chest.”

    Chestnut said the footage showed Ferrell pulled his pants up higher than his waist level, which he interpreted as a move to show he had no weapons. Ferrell then started running away from the Taser’s red laser sights. Ferrell’s arms were outstretched in front of him, hands empty, Chestnut said.

    Ferrell ran out of the camera’s frame just before the shots.

    “There were no commands to stop, freeze, stop or I’ll shoot,” said Chestnut. He said the shots came in three quick volleys.

As two red laser dots from stun guns flashed on his chest, Jonathan Ferrell hitched up his pants and held out his arms to show officers he was unarmed, his family’s attorney told the Observer on Tuesday.

Ferrell then ran sideways on a dark road in northeast Charlotte Saturday, said the attorney, Chris Chestnut.

Chestnut said Ferrell went out of view of a police cruiser’s dashboard camera.

Then came three quick volleys of gunshots.

“It’s one, two, three, four – pause,” said Chestnut, counting off the shots he heard. “One, two, three, four, five, six – pause. One, two.”

Chestnut said that’s when he heard officers yell “Get down.”

Officer Randall Kerrick fired his gun 12 times, hitting Ferrell 10 times. Ferrell, 24, died at the scene.

Kerrick, one of three officers who confronted the former college football player, was charged later that day with voluntary manslaughter.

Chestnut’s account of the dash cam video, which he said he viewed Tuesday, along with the release of a 911 tape, provide the most complete picture to date of what happened the night Ferrell died.

Around 2:30 a.m., Ferrell crashed a Toyota Camry in the Bradfield Farms neighborhood in northeast Mecklenburg, police said. His family’s attorney says he looked for help at a home about one-quarter mile away.

A woman who saw him at the door thought he was a robber and dialed 911.

Kerrick was joined by Officers Thornell Little and Adam Neal. Kerrick, a third-year officer, was the least experienced of the three.

Chestnut said the footage shows Ferrell, who played for Florida A&M and had recently moved to Charlotte, was not a deadly threat and that the shooting was unjustified.

But Kerrick’s attorney, Michael Greene said Kerrick’s decision to shoot was legal. Greene could not immediately be reached Tuesday to comment about the video.

“We’re confident at the resolution of this case it will be found that Officer Kerrick’s actions were justified on the night in question,” Greene said.

Greene appeared on Kerrick’s behalf Tuesday at his initial court appearance Tuesday. Kerrick is free on $50,000 bail.

Charlotte Mecklenburg police did not respond when asked to comment on Chestnut’s account.

A frightened 911 call

The 911 call came to police dispatch at 2:36 a.m.

Frantic and crying, the caller said a man had tried to force his way into her home.

On the 17-minute recording, the woman says she thought her husband was coming home from work.

Instead, she encountered a man later identified as Ferrell. She fought to get the door closed. She said he was trying to kick it down.

“There’s a guy breaking in my front door,” she said. “He’s trying to get in.”

It took officers about 11 minutes to arrive.

As the woman spoke to the dispatcher, the recording paints a picture of a chaotic scene. The home’s alarm system blared. A representative from a security company talked to her over a speaker while she relayed information to police. The family dog was barking.

The woman worried about her baby, asleep in a nearby room.

She told the dispatcher she couldn’t remember where her husband kept his gun.

Ninety seconds into the call, a man can be heard loudly saying, “Hello?” The rest of his words are garbled.

It’s unclear if the voice was Ferrell’s.

The dispatcher asks if the man is in the house. “He’s not in the house he’s in the front yard yelling. Oh my God, please, I can’t believe I opened the door. I don’t know what the f*** is wrong with me,” she said.

Six minutes into the call the woman says she thinks the man left her property “because we have a security motion light and it turned off.”

More than 11 minutes into the call, the woman said she could see officers.

The dispatcher said one would likely come to her door. But the woman began screaming when she saw them running away.

“Oh my god, where is he going? Why is he running? What the f***?...Oh my God, they really left. There’s three cops and they all left.”

The dispatcher asked the woman if she was still safe in her house.

“They might have seen him,” the dispatcher says. “They might have gone to get him.”

Dash cam video

The dash cam video lasts about 20 seconds, Chestnut said.

Chestnut said the police cruiser that captured the footage was parked in the street leading into the subdivision.

Police have not said how far Ferrell and the officers were from the house.

Chestnut said Ferrell walked toward officers when he came into view.

Ferrell was walking away from the house, barefoot. Ferrell likely lost his shoes in the car wreck, kicking his way out the Camry’s back window, Chestnut said.

Police have said Ferrell may have been looking for help after the wreck.

“He starts walking a little faster” toward the officers when he saw them, Chestnut said. He said police officers immediately pointed their Tasers at Ferrell’s chest, from what Chestnut estimated was a distance of 20 feet. “You see two laser beams right on his chest.”

Chestnut said the footage showed Ferrell pulled his pants up above waist level. He interpreted that as a move by Ferrell to show he had no weapons. Ferrell then turned to the side and started running away. He may have been heading toward Kerrick, Chestnut said. Ferrell’s arms were outstretched in front of him, hands empty, Chestnut said.

“He made no threatening comments. It was clearly apparent he had no weapons,” Chestnut said. “He never reached” for his waistband while running or anyplace a weapon could be concealed, Chestnut said.

Ferrell ran out of the camera’s frame just before the shots, Chestnut said.

“There were no commands to ‘Stop, freeze, stop or I’ll shoot,’” said Chestnut.

The first commands from officers, Chestnut said, came after the shooting stopped.

“By the time they stop shooting, then they start saying, ‘Get on the ground, get on the ground,’” Chestnut said. “He had already been shot.”

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson Portillo: 704-358-5041; Twitter: @ESPortillo
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