Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray has asked the N.C. Attorney General’s Office to take over the case against a police officer accused of fatally shooting an unarmed man because Murray said he once worked for the firm that represents the officer.
Noelle Talley, an attorney general spokeswoman, said the case will be handled by the Special Prosecutions Section, which “is available to all district attorneys in the state when there is a conflict or when there are other issues that prevent a district attorney from handling a case.”
A statement from Attorney General Roy Cooper said the SBI will conduct an independent investigation.
“This case is clearly a tragedy and we will work to bring it to a just resolution,” Cooper said in the statement.
Murray was in private practice in Charlotte for 14 years before being elected in 2010.
Officer Randall Kerrick has been charged with voluntary manslaughter in connection with Saturday’s shooting of 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell.
Ferrell may have been looking for help after a car wreck in a northeast Mecklenburg neighborhood around 2:30 a.m. Saturday, police said. He knocked on a woman’s door, but she thought he was a robber and dialed 911.
Kerrick was one of three officers to respond, and fired 12 bullets, hitting Ferrell 10 times, according to police. He was charged with voluntary manslaughter.
George Laughrun and Michael Greene represent Kerrick. They were partners in the firm when Murray worked there.
In a statement, Murray’s office said the case doesn’t present an obvious conflict of interest, and ethical rules don’t require the District Attorney’s Office to withdraw from the case, but “avoiding even the appearance of impropriety is essential to maintaining the public’s trust.”
“In cases that have a substantial impact on the community, however, the elected District Attorney’s involvement in every stage of the prosecution is crucial,” the news release says.
“The nature of the case against Mr. Kerrick is such that the community will be affected by any and all decisions regarding the prosecution and final disposition of the case.
“ It would be impossible for Mr. Murray to avoid involvement in the case if prosecuted by his office.
“Further, it is critical that the family of the victim, the defendant, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the citizens of our community have confidence that the case is handled objectively and impartially by the State’s attorneys.”
Kerrick, 27, and in his third year with Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, was arrested hours after the early Saturday shooting of Ferrell, which has sparked outrage and gained national attention.
Laughrun and Greene contend that the shooting was justified.
An attorney for Ferrell’s family who saw video from a dashboard camera said officers didn’t issue adequate warning before opening fire.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe said the video shows Ferrell was unarmed and the shooting was unlawful.
On Thursday, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fraternal Order of Police issued a statement of support for Kerrick.
“Officer Randall W. Kerrick of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is an active member with Local Lodge No. 9 and in good standing with the State Lodge of North Carolina,” said Todd Walther, president of Charlotte-Mecklenburg FOP Lodge No. 9.
“As a member in good standing with the lodge, we stand in support of Officer Kerrick during this difficult time,” Walther said.
The FOP, which represents many of the 1,700 officers in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, is helping to pay Kerrick’s legal bills in connection with the case.
Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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