Crime & Courts

Live updates: Officer Neal testifies about shooting of Jonathan Ferrell, after dashcam is played

Wednesday is the third day of testimony in the voluntary manslaughter trial for Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick, who is accused of wrongfully killing Jonathan Ferrell in a late-night encounter in 2013. For a review of the basic facts of the case and links to prior reports, scroll to the bottom.

5 p.m.: Court adjourns after Neal describes encounter

Neal testified that when Ferrell began running after the Taser was fired he expected a fight. “It’s going to be a long night.”

Asked whether he recalled telling an investigator that Ferrell seemed “amped up” and in a “zombie state,” Neal replied: “Yes, sir.”

Judge Ervin then adjourned court for the day. Neal will continue testifying Thursday.

4:30 p.m.: More from the courtroom: In the ditch

After Neal got of his car, he said he heard shots. He said he saw Kerrick and Ferrell together in a ditch.

“Officer Kerrick, he was on his buttocks with his weapon in his hand, and Jonathan was at the lower part of Officer Kerrick’s legs and feet,” Neal testified.

He said Kerrick had one leg extended, as if he was trying to push away from Ferrell.

Ferrell crawled forward, Neal said, pulling up on Kerrick’s body. “It was like a swimming move,” Neal said, demonstrating with his arms.

Kerrick fired a second round, he said, and Ferrell quit moving. Then, Neal said, he saw Ferrell’s body move again and Kerrick fired again.

Neal told the prosecution he never drew his Taser or gun because he was expecting a fight “versus pulling out anything.”

In an animated cross-examination by defense attorney Michael Greene, Neal got down on the courtroom floor to demonstrate how Kerrick was positioned in the ditch. From down on the courtroom floor, Neal said he did not shoot “because I might hit Officer Kerrick.”

4:30 p.m. Reaction from outside the courtroom

Charles Monnett, the Charlotte attorney who represented the Ferrell family in a civil lawsuit over the shooting, spoke to the Observer at his office, shortly after the video was played in the courtroom.

“Jonathan is plainly walking up casually,” Monnett said of what the video shows. “He’s not behaving like a violent criminal would. He’s making no attempt to conceal himself. His hands are plainly visible.”

He said the standard for police to use deadly force is an imminent threat of death or severe bodily injury.

“Where do you see that on this video?” he said.

He said Ferrell didn’t begin to run “until the Taser (laser targeting) dots are plainly visible on his chest.”

If it were not for this video, he said, he does not think Kerrick would be facing criminal charges.

3:40 p.m.: Officer Adam Neal testitifes about video

When the video finished playing in court, a prosecutor began questioning Neal. Neal testified that as he pulled up in his squad car, he saw Ferrell walking toward the officers. He said he saw red Taser dots on Ferrell’s body and, it was at that point, that Ferrell began to run.

“And at this point,” Neal testified, “he started charging.”

He said he got out of his car and tried to run after Ferrell.

Court recessed at 3:40 p.m. for an afternoon break.

3 p.m.: Dashcam is played in court

Jonathan Ferrell walks slowly toward police cars then suddenly sprints forward and a Taser piece flies through the air, the dash-cam video shows.

Ferrell can no longer be seen, but can be heard yelling. A volley of gun shots erupts. Someone yells, “Shots fired! Shots fired!” Then “Don’t move.”

The dramatic footage begins around 2:38 a.m. as Officer Adam Neal responds to a 911 call about a possible break-in attempt. Neal speeds to the scene, siren blaring, lights flashing. About seven minutes into the video, he turns onto Reedy Creek Road.

By then, on the dark road, Neal has silenced his siren and lights. He pulls up behind another patrol car. Kerrick can be seen getting into the driver’s seat, then driving onto another street leading to the neighborhood pool. He stops, Neal follows behind, dash-cam rolling.

From the left of the video frame walks Ferrell. He doesn’t look to be in a hurry. His arms dangle at his side, hands out of his pocket.

When he gets close to the squad cars, he suddenly runs forward. Twelve shots follow.

2:30 p.m.: Officer Adam Neal testifies about arriving at scene

Officer Adam Neal is on the witness stand. A camera on the dashboard of his police cruiser captured the moments leading up to the shooting of Ferrell, although the shooting itself is reportedly not on the video.

Neal testified that he was responding to a call for a breaking and entering in progress, with a suspect on the scene.

12:30 p.m.: Court recessed for lunch

The most dramatic moment of the morning came when Defense Attorney George Laughrun asked Detective Matt Hefner to read from his initial report of the shooting scene.

Two prosecutors leaped to their feet and shouted “Objection!” simultaneously.

Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin declared the passage was hearsay and blocked Hefner from reading it. In light of the objections of prosecutors, the information may have been unflattering to Ferrell.

For over an hour before lunch, crime scene supervisor Trena Cadenhead testified about locations where she found pieces of Taser blast and drug baggies. There was no testimony about whether the baggies have any connection to the case.

11:10 a.m.: Another officer handcuffed Ferrell

The three officers involved in the confrontation with Ferrell did not place handcuffs on his wrists after he was shot and killed, according to testimony Wednesday.

Another officer, who arrived to help investigate the shooting, put on the handcuffs, said Detective Matt Heffner.

In his opening statement, prosecutor Arden Harris left the impression with jurors that one of the three officers who responded to the 911 call had put the handcuffs on Ferrell’s dead body. 

11 a.m.: Jury sees image of Ferrell’s bloody body

Judge Robert Ervin warned Ferrell’s family that a graphic photograph of his body was about to be shown. His mother left the courtroom with several other women.

Once again, attorneys sparred. The defense claimed the photograph was designed to elicit sympathy from jurors; the prosecution claimed it was illustrative of the deadly confrontation.

Ervin let the jury see the photograph but said it could not be displayed on a large screen. It shows Ferrell’s body, covered in blood, after he was rolled over by investigators. Ferrell had died face-down in a ditch.

10:30 a.m.: Could Ferrell recognize patrol cars?

Could Jonathan Ferrell see that the two cars that drove toward him on the night he died were police patrol vehicles?

On Tuesday, CSI supervisor K.C. Nyx testified that the headlights and a spotlight on Kerrick’s patrol car could have made things behind it “fall into darkness.”

But Wednesday, she conceded under questioning by the defense that she was able to clearly see the police markings on the cars.

The distinction is important. Prosecutors have said that neither officer identified himself, implying that Ferrell may not have known that he was running away from police.

Kerrick stood behind the lights, his gun drawn.

Basic facts

A jury will decide whether Kerrick used excessive force when he fired 12 shots at Ferrell, or whether he was justified because he thought Ferrell posed a deadly threat.

The 12-member jury has two people who are Latino, three African-American and seven white. Eight are women and four are men. The alternate jurors are all white, and consist of one man and three women.

If convicted, Kerrick faces three to 11 years in prison. He has been on unpaid suspension since the shooting.

According to police, Ferrell wrecked his fiancee’s car on his way home after an outing with friends and sought help at a house in a neighborhood east of Charlotte. The homeowner, afraid someone was trying to break in, called 911. Kerrick and two other officers responded, and the deadly confrontation ensued.

Ferrell, 24, had moved to Charlotte from Florida to be with his fiancee. He was a former scholarship football player for Florida A&M University. He was working at both Best Buy and Dillard’s at the time of his death.

To read previous reports from inside the courtroom:

Monday live updates, Monday’s wrap-up story.

Tuesday live updates, Tuesday’s wrap-up story.

Also reporting from the courthouse: Hayley Fowler, Michael Gordon and Langston Taylor.

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