All day Friday, barbers and customers at Charlotte’s Da Lucky Spot Barber Shop kept a watch on the shop’s television for news of the voluntary manslaughter trial of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick.
When the jury reported it was deadlocked, they braced themselves for a mistrial. Yet after Judge Robert Ervin decided a unanimous verdict was hopeless, reaction wasn’t swift.
“It took a while to sink in,” said Shaun Corbett, owner of the mostly African-American shop on North Tryon Street. “Then there was a groan around the room, and guys were saying, ‘Man, that’s messed up.’”
Corbett is a founder of the successful “Cops and Barbers” town hall meetings that have brought the community together with police officers for conversations – an attempt to stave off violence that has followed verdicts in other cities.
He said he was disappointed, even frustrated, with the mistrial, but “we’ve got to hold on to the fact that it’s not an acquittal. That means he has the potential to be tried again.”
Corbett said violence will serve no purpose. “It gets us nowhere. We need to keep our heads and focus on the work that needs to be done.”
Fellow barber Karlos Adams said justice wasn’t served with the mistrial – it’s “just been put on hold.”
“The man still needs to be judged by a jury of his peers,” Adams said. “I thought this was a shut and closed case. The victim was a defenseless man. There should have been nonlethal tactics to take him down – not shoot him 10 times.”
He said Friday’s outcome wasn’t a surprise. “There seems to be an epidemic of African-American men nationwide getting gunned down by police officers, and nothing happens to the officers,” Adams said. “We’ll be watching how this goes.”
Ray Adams, no relation to Karlos, recently was discharged from active duty in the Navy and was at the shop to get his son’s hair clipped before he returned to school.
He, too, found the mistrial frustrating.
“It’s so redundant,” Adams said. “It’s bad because I know you’ve got good cops, and they get a bad reputation from the cops who do something like this.”
He thought about his 14 years in the Navy.
“Who was I fighting for, what rights was I defending? What am I getting deployed for?” he said. “I don’t think protests or violence is the right answer. Education and voting are. We need to teach our kids that when you do the right thing, you’ll be OK.
“That’s hard when you have outcomes like this.”