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Attorney for family of Jonathon Ferrell says suit in CMPD shooting to be filed next week

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/10/18/12/qtn0v.Em.138.jpeg|225
    DAVID T. FOSTER III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
    Caché Heidel, Jonathon Ferrell’s fiancee, right, wipes tears away as family attorney Chris Chestnut looks on after a press conference about Ferrell’s shooting death.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/10/18/12/K6n0G.Em.138.jpeg|500
    -
    Officer Randall Kerrick is accused of killing Jonathon Ferrell, who was unarmed.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/10/18/12/IJ6Nw.Em.138.jpeg|435
    - AP
    Jonathan Ferrell is seen in an undated photo provided by Florida A&M University, where he played football.

An attorney for the family of an unarmed man fatally shot last fall by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer says he will file a lawsuit next week.

Chris Chestnut said Friday that the suit will name police Officer Randall Kerrick, police Chief Rodney Monroe, the Police Department and the city of Charlotte.

All had a role, Chestnut says, in the Sept. 14 shooting death of Jonathon Ferrell, a former Florida A&M football player and recent Charlotte transplant.

The suit has been expected. Ferrell’s death drew national headlines. He was hit by 10 bullets during a late-night confrontation with police in a northeast Charlotte neighborhood after Ferrell wrecked his car.

Kerrick, who fired a dozen shots in all, has been charged with manslaughter in connection with Ferrell’s death.

The family says Ferrell was in the subdivision because he had given a co-worker a ride home and had wrecked the car on unfamiliar streets. Toxicology reports showed that Ferrell had been drinking that night, but his blood-alcohol level was below the legal limit.

Three officers responded that night to a 911 call from a woman in the neighborhood who said a man was trying to break down her door. Only Kerrick fired his weapon.

Monroe has said a video from one of the police cars at the scene shows that Ferrell did not follow officers’ warnings to get on the ground as he approached them.

Kerrick is the first Charlotte officer charged in connection with an on-duty shooting in at least 30 years. He has remained on unpaid leave since his arrest.

Kerrick’s attorney, George Laughrun of Charlotte, said police were to hold a shooting-review hearing this week that could have led to Kerrick’s firing. That hearing apparently was canceled and has not been rescheduled, a police spokesman said.

Kerrick’s preliminary appearance in court, twice delayed, is now scheduled for Feb. 11.

The manslaughter charge against him is being handled by the attorney general’s office. This week, the Observer sent a series of questions to the office on the status of the investigation but did not receive answers. An office spokeswoman said she would have an update on the case Monday.

Told of the family’s pending lawsuit, Laughrun, who has called the shooting tragic but justified, said he had no comment.

Chestnut has been a critic of the handling of the criminal case from the start, saying Ferrell’s family in Tallahassee, Fla., has received little information from police and the state investigators in charge.

“There has been no significant movement despite overwhelming evidence,” Chestnut said Friday. “Perhaps the wheels of justice will move faster in a civil arena.

“Sometimes lawyers get a bad rap. But nobody will give us an answer. So we have to sue everybody to get answers that are really a matter of public record.”

Chestnut said the suit will allow the family to subpoena witnesses and collect information that has until now been kept private.

“This is information that the public and the family deserves,” Chestnut said. “The city and police are terrified at what might be coming out, and they should be.”

Word of the pending lawsuit came the same day the city of Charlotte said it had settled a 7-year-old lawsuit stemming from a fatal police shooting in 2006.

The family of Wayne Furr, who was fatally shot by a police officer while doing repair work on a cellphone tower, will receive $700,000, the city announced Friday.

Another lawsuit, this one stemming from the 2010 police shooting of a Charlotte teenager, remains in federal court until the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rules on the city’s motion to have the officer dropped from the case.

Newbold said oral arguments in that case are tentatively scheduled for March.

Gordon: 704-358-5095
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