Inside the Courts

Billy Graham team sets up spiritual beachhead near Kerrick trial

The 40-foot ministry on wheels is parked near Marshall Park with big letters on the side that spell BILLY GRAHAM.

It’s a few blocks, four flights of stairs and two security checkpoints from Courtroom 5370.

Inside, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick goes on trial Monday for the 2013 shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell. Similar cases have set off riots and civic unrest in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo.

Jack Munday and the other members of Billy Graham’s Rapid Response Team were in the midst of all of it. Now, they’ve set up in their home base of Charlotte. Their goal: to establish a nonpartisan, spiritual relief outpost to dress the emotional wounds the Kerrick case has opened.

The Graham organization started this team of chaplains after the Trade Center bombings, and they’ve traveled the world to offer prayer and spiritual support in the wake of natural disasters and political unrest.

After the fiery riots in Ferguson that followed the police shooting of teenager Michael Brown, the group adjusted course. When a grand jury in St. Louis declined to bring charges against the officer involved, Munday and a small group of chaplains boarded a plane to St. Louis on a whim and a prayer.

One problem: Because of the Thanksgiving holiday the group had no luck establishing ties with a Ferguson church that could introduce them to the community. Problem solved: Michael Brown’s father and minister were flying back to St. Louis on the same plane.

The Graham team stayed for six weeks. Munday calls it one of the most remarkable experiences of his life.

There’s been no violence in Charlotte surrounding Ferrell’s death and Kerrick’s arrest. Munday offers a simple prayer that it stays that way, that prayer can reach the families of Ferrell and Kerrick, the judges and the jury, and the surrounding community. That justice can be found.

The judge’s little friend

Last year, a photograph of retired Superior Court Judge Richard Boner was discovered in the jail cell of an accused murderer and gang member. Within a week, Boner bought a gun and qualified for a concealed carry permit.

“My wife is not crazy about guns,” he says. “But she understand why I need one for protection of me, my family and my home. I’d rather have a gun and not need it than need one and not have it.”

Boner handled several cases involving the area cell of United Blood Nation, accused of killing a Charlotte business couple last year to keep them from testifying. He and other court officials have been on higher alert since UBN’s 2014 kidnapping of the father of a prosecutor in Raleigh. He says more judges today own guns and carry them into courthouses.

“I don’t take threats lightly,” says Boner, who’s still hearing trials as a fill-in. “Judges and prosecutors have dealt with people who may have a reason to harm them.”

Boner says he feels safer, and he’s thinking about getting another gun.