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N.C. Trial To Begin For Ex-Officer Who Fatally Shot Black Motorist

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N.C. Trial To Begin For Ex-Officer Who Fatally Shot Black Motorist

Law

N.C. Trial To Begin For Ex-Officer Who Fatally Shot Black Motorist

N.C. Trial To Begin For Ex-Officer Who Fatally Shot Black Motorist

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/428901736/428901737" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Testimony is scheduled to start Monday in the case involving a former Charlotte, N.C., police officer, who is white, who shot and killed a 24-year-old unarmed black man in 2013.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The trial of a former Charlotte, N.C., police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man begins today. Randall Kerrick, who is white, fatally shot 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell two years ago. In May, the city settled a lawsuit filed by the victim's family for 2 and a quarter million dollars. From member station WFAE, Gwendolyn Glenn takes a look at the circumstances leading up to this trial.

GWENDOLYN GLENN, BYLINE: It all started with a 911 call around 2:00 a.m. on September 14, 2013.

(SOUNDBITE OF 911 CALL)

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: 911, hello?

SARAH MCCARTNEY: I need help.

GLENN: The woman told the dispatcher that she thought the person knocking on her door was her husband. When she opened it, she saw Jonathan Ferrell standing there and assumed the worst.

(SOUNDBITE OF 911 CALL)

MCCARTNEY: There's a guy breaking in my front door.

GLENN: Ferrell was an aspiring engineer and former football player at Florida A&M University and had been involved in a car accident nearby. Police believe he needed help when he knocked on the door. Three officers responded to the 911 call. It's not clear what happened, but Kerrick fired 12 shots, hitting Ferrell 10 times. The other officers didn't shoot at all. Charlotte police acted quickly. They arrested Kerrick that day and charged him with voluntary manslaughter. Initially, a grand jury declined to indict Kerrick. Many people were outraged and protested that night, including former Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP President Kojo Nantambu.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

KOJO NANTAMBU: Something is wrong when a man can be shot and nothing happens. Something is wrong in this country.

GLENN: Prosecutors weren't happy either, and a week later took the case before a different grand jury, which did indict Kerrick on manslaughter charges. Kerrick's defense team has called the shooting tragic, but justified. Here's one of his attorneys, Michael Greene.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GREENE: We are confident that at the resolution of this case, it will be found that Officer Kerrick's actions were justified on the night in question.

GLENN: But Jonathan Ferrell's family believes he was a victim of racial profiling. At a vigil on the one-year anniversary of his death, racial profiling was on the minds of many. Bree Newsome, now known for scaling a flagpole and taking down the Confederate battle flag in Columbia, S.C., spoke at that event.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BREE NEWSOME: Even if you make it into college like Jonathan did, you can still end up gunned down by the cops. Our whole lives are about walking around like this - hands up - trying to prove that we're not criminals, trying to prove that we have a right to live.

(APPLAUSE)

GLENN: At a different rally, Charlotte's new police chief, Kerr Putney, says he hopes unity prevails during the trial. He's working with local clergy, the NAACP and other groups to prevent any violence after the verdict.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KERR PUTNEY: We're connected with people who can help us de-escalate a situation, community leaders who have that credibility already. We're just going to tap into some of that. The protesters who want to demonstrate and want to march and want to get their message out, I want to protect them too, keep them out of harm's way. And we've got a lot of people who are going to join and help us do that.

GLENN: The trial is expected to last at least a month. If convicted, Kerrick faces up to 11 years in prison. For NPR News, I'm Gwendolyn Glenn in Charlotte.

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