The Kerrick verdict will soon come, but another is already known, and the video was the key. Follow closely.
September 14, 2013. Chief Rodney Monroe charged CMPD Officer Randall Kerrick with voluntary manslaughter only 19 hours after Jonathan Ferrell was shot to death. The speed stunned experts. A unit reporting to Deputy Chief Kerr Putney handled the investigation.
Why so fast, people wondered? Political correctness, was the suggestion. Kerrick is white, Ferrell was black, and Charlotte didn’t want to be seen as other race-troubled cities.
Monroe declared a dash cam video clearly showed Ferrell was unarmed, and Kerrick used excessive, unlawful force. He did not release the video.
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CMPD did release the 911 call and police radio traffic, but again, not the video. People started getting the message: it must be bad for Kerrick. When I called on CMPD to release it as other agencies have released officer-involved shooting videos, people chided, “why are you trying to railroad this officer?”
Prosecutors and Kerrick’s attorneys were united: releasing the video would jeopardize Kerrick’s right to a fair trial. A judge agreed. No video.
Okay, we get the message.
January, 2014. A Mecklenburg County grand jury hears 277 cases and indicts on every one but Kerrick. Instead of voluntary manslaughter jurors asked for a lesser, “involuntary” charge. Prosecutors went to a different grand jury, called more witnesses, and got what they wanted. They supposedly played the video.
May, 2015. With the trial looming, the city suddenly settles a civil suit filed by Ferrell’s family for $2.25 million, a huge payoff compared with similar cases. Four days later, a bombshell: Rodney Monroe will retire July 1, before the trial. In less than a month, a new chief: Kerr Putney. He had applied unsuccessfully for chief spots in Raleigh and Winston-Salem but quickly scored the Charlotte job.
Finally, the trial, and the infamous video is nothing like we were led to believe. It is no smoking gun, literally or figuratively. Jonathan Ferrell runs toward an officer after a Taser shot misses. There are three shouts to stop before gunshots are heard. So, why were they all keeping it under wraps?
Precisely because the video alone does not convict Kerrick. Because it at least raises questions about whether he killed without justification. Because, as an African American caller told me: “If that video had been shown earlier, a lot of people – minorities and whites – would have had a different opinion.”
By the time we realize the video’s not the slam dunk Monroe made it out to be, he’s gone. By the time anyone might question Kerr Putney’s investigation, he’s the chief. If Kerrick is not convicted, it’s Democrat Roy Cooper’s fault because Republican Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray had recused himself. If anything hits the fan in Charlotte, it’s that mostly-white jury’s fault.
The video was supposed to clearly show an officer guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Instead it showed how Rodney Monroe and GuvCo committed voluntary career slaughter.
Larson is mid-morning host at WBT-AM (1110)