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Dozens rally to protest grand jury’s decision not to indict CMPD officer in fatal shooting

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

More than 60 people gathered at a northern Charlotte church on Thursday to protest a grand jury’s decision earlier this week to not indict a Charlotte police officer accused of fatally shooting an unarmed man in September.

Local civil rights leaders at the meeting encouraged people disappointed with the decision to protest outside the Mecklenburg County Courthouse on Monday, when prosecutors plan to resubmit evidence about the killing to a grand jury.

Randall Kerrick, 28, was arrested just hours after he fatally shot 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell on Sept. 14. Investigators say the officer fired his gun 12 times, hitting Ferrell 10 times. Kerrick is white. Ferrell was black.

Ferrell had been involved in a car wreck in the Reedy Creek area of east Mecklenburg and may have been looking for help, his family’s attorney said. Kerrick and two other officers were summoned to the area by a woman who said a man was trying to break into her house. Kerrick’s attorneys said Ferrell did not comply with officers’ commands to stop approaching.

On Monday, in a rare and unexpected move, grand jury members declined to indict Kerrick for voluntary manslaughter and asked prosecutors to submit a lesser charge for them to consider.

“What happened in that jury room, that was not a tragedy, that was an atrocious, diabolical act of evil,” Kojo Nantambu, the head of the Charlotte chapter of the NAACP, told the crowd. “We’re standing here because people don’t have the integrity, the decency or the humanity to look at Jonathan Ferrell as a young man.”

Kerrick is the first CMPD officer charged in connection with an on-duty shooting in at least 30 years. If convicted of voluntary manslaughter, he faces a prison term of between three and 11 years. His attorneys have said the shooting was tragic but justified.

The N.C. Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, plans to resubmit evidence about the fatal shooting to a different grand jury on Monday, hoping to get an indictment.

The NAACP and other civil rights advocates have long contended that the shooting indicates a problem within CMPD and the need for officers to get more cultural and sensitivity training. The shooting served as a rallying point for groups that pushed for move civilian oversight of police disciplinary decisions.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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