Crime & Courts

On anniversary of his death, Jonathan Ferrell’s family visits shooting site for first time

Ferrell family visits site on shooting anniversary

Jonathan Ferrell's mother and brother lay a wreath and pray as the scene where Jonathan Ferrell was shot by a Charlotte police officer two years ago.
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Jonathan Ferrell's mother and brother lay a wreath and pray as the scene where Jonathan Ferrell was shot by a Charlotte police officer two years ago.

On the second anniversary of his death Monday, Jonathan Ferrell’s family wanted to walk his last path.

They started near the pool house at the Bradfield Farm’s neighborhood, then followed a sidewalk that led them back up a narrow road. “Where was the body?” Willie Ferrell, the dead man’s brother, asked.

He and his mother Georgia Ferrell were led to a nearby grassy ditch, still moist from weekend rain. They both walked down into it.

“My son was face down here,” Georgia Ferrell said. “It feels like he’s killing him all over again.”

Two years ago Monday, the 24-year-old Ferrell was shot 10 times by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick. Ferrell had wrecked his car after giving a friend a ride home, then pounded on a nearby door to find help, prosecutors said. Kerrick, one of three officers to answer a dispatcher’s call for a home invasion in progress, told the jury that he shot Ferrell after the former college football player refused orders to get on the ground and ran toward him. Kerrick said he feared Ferrell would overpower him and take his gun.

The voluntary manslaughter charge against the officer was dismissed last month after a jury deadlocked 8-4 to acquit him.

The family’s visit and news conference at the shooting site set off a daylong series of events in Charlotte to commemorate Ferrell’s death. It also revealed apparent anger in Bradfield Farms.

At dawn, two signs blocked the entrance to the pool road. One message on a sawhorse was directed at “the racist groups.” It described the NAACP as the “National Association of Always Complaining People.”

“We reject your racist attitude,” it read. “Leave our neighborhood alone.”

Another sign appeared to spin off the “Black Lives Matter” slogan: “All lives matter,” it said.

Nikki Howell, president of the Bradfield Farms homeowners association, said she “junked” the signs when she first learned of them at around 7:30 a.m.

“Whoever did this does not represent our neighborhood,” said resident Cindy Scavatto, a 15-year resident of Bradfield Farms who joined Howell at the Ferrells’ gathering.

Ferrell’s death and the subsequent trial ignited a debate across the city over Kerrick’s guilt or innocence, as well as police use of force against African-Americans.

Gary McFadden, a community liaison for Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Kerr Putney, said the vestiges of that debate still divide parts of Charlotte.

“Bradfield Farms, this city, still has a bandage on it,” he said while waiting for the Ferrells to arrive. “Has that wound healed? No. The scar is going to be there. But nobody wants to talk. Twelve people in a jury room represented the true America, and we’re still divided.”

The Ferrells said they waited to visit Bradfield Farms until after Kerrick’s trial. Willie Ferrell said the walk he made with his mother brought to life details he heard in the courtroom.

Ferrell, who consistently referred to the shooting as a murder, said he knows what his brother was thinking as walked down the same sidewalk, toward the police cars that were speeding down the pool road to meet him.

“When someone needs help, you walk to the light. You don’t go to the dark,” he said.

Georgia Ferrell said she taught her son to respect authority and to turn to police if he ever needed help. “That makes this my fault – to teach him the rules of America. To stand in the light.”

Michael Gordon: 704-358-5095, @MikeGordonOBS