Next month Jonathan A. Ferrell would have turned 25, but the former Florida A&M football player will never live to see that day. Though he had committed no crime, was carrying no weapons, and was probably just looking for help after a car accident, he was gunned down Saturday morning in North Carolina by a police officer.
According to reports, it appears that Ferrell had gotten into a fairly serious car accident that morning. He crawled out the back window of the car, then went running for help. He arrived at a house at around 2 a.m. and started banging on the door. A woman, who thought it was her husband, opened the door and was startled to see a strange man standing there. She called 911.
When police arrived, Ferrell reportedly ran toward them. One officer fired a stun gun, but when that was "unsuccessful," Officer Randall Kerrick, then fired his gun. Ferrell was shot "several times" and was pronounced dead at the scene. All because he needed help.
I always want to support police in these situations, because I want to believe most of them of them are honorable public servants who just try to do what they believe is right in what can be very intense situations. In this case (and in too many recently), however, it seems like a tragic overreaction. Ferrell knocked on the door; he did not break it down. The officer did not see a weapon, yet he shot to kill.
Authorities agree Kerrick was unjustified in his actions, and in a statement, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said:
The evidence revealed that Mr. Ferrell did advance on Officer Kerrick and the investigation showed that the subsequent shooting of Mr. Ferrell was excessive.
Our investigation has shown that Officer Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter.
Kerrick, who has been a police officer for two years, was arrested for voluntary manslaughter and released on $50,000 bond. Two other officers who were with him during the incident have been placed on administrative leave.
Beyond the question of police using excessive force, it's a story that's also sure to raise questions of racism as Ferrell was black, and Kerrick white. Would Kerrick have been as quick to fire if Ferrell had been white? We'll never know, but the question is there, as it always is in such cases.
Nothing can be done now to unwind this terrible tragedy and the senseless death of this young man. Hopefully, however, the light shed upon it and others will help prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Do you think it sounds like the officer used excessive force?
Image via CNN