Viewpoint

Keith Larson: Kerrick settlement a tragedy and travesty

Charlotte’s settlement with former officer Randall Kerrick means critical questions won’t be asked about former police chief Rodney Monroe (above).
Charlotte’s settlement with former officer Randall Kerrick means critical questions won’t be asked about former police chief Rodney Monroe (above). tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

It is done.

The city of Charlotte has settled with officer Randall Kerrick, who shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell in 2013. An Observer editorial called the settlement with Kerrick, and another with the Ferrell family, “pragmatic, financially” because either might have won larger sums in court. That pragmatism provides cover for the real benefit of settling: Secrecy.

Their deals prevent Kerrick and the Ferrells from launching any other claims against the city. Kerrick is further forbidden to divulge anything about the case not already public.

This means CMPD brass and others will not be forced to answer in court a string of questions they’ve consistently ducked. Questions like, Why did Chief Rodney Monroe apparently become certain after seeing the dash cam video that Kerrick used excessive force, when his Deputy Chief in charge of the investigation did not? Kerr Putney admits now he saw the video before Kerrick was charged and did not think it presented clear and convincing evidence of excessive force.

Why, really, did Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray wash his hands of the case after the charge was authorized? Murray says he withdrew because his former law firm represented Kerrick, but he did not withdraw from a similar case in which his former firm represented an accused officer.

Why did CMPD policy on use-of-force apparently change right after the Ferrell shooting? Why the discrepancies between what CMPD says the policy was and how some officers say they were trained?

Thanks to the settlements, none of these questions will be pressed publicly. Classic “Tidy Town.”

Jonathan Ferrell is dead, a tragedy which may well have been avoided. Sadly for Ferrell and his family, the surest paths to avoidance would have begun with Ferrell himself.

The Ferrells got $2.25 million from the city. That’s three to four times what other families got in recent CMPD officer-involved deaths.

Rodney Monroe left with a pension of over $52,000 a year after only seven years as chief. He landed a big job with a Coca-Cola distributor in Tampa where he is now cashing his pension checks, drawing a salary, and having a Coke and a Smile.

Kerr Putney was named Chief of Police after Monroe resigned. His salary is over $171,000.

Randall Kerrick will receive two years of back pay totaling $113,000 before taxes. The city will pay $8,000 each to his Social Security and retirement funds and $50,000 to his lawyer in the Ferrell family’s civil suit – but nothing toward his criminal defense.

His trial ended in a hung jury. The charge against him was dropped. Randall Kerrick exits his chosen profession to find another with the weight of a man’s death on his mind and the boot marks of Rodney Monroe on his back, a travesty perpetrated by GuvCo.

As a first step forward, Kerrick filed paperwork to have the Ferrell case expunged from his record. Once completed, he will legally be able to say he has never been arrested. No future employer will ever know.

Unless they Google him.

Keith Larson can be heard 9 a.m.-Noon Monday-Friday on WBT AM/FM.

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