Police Videos: Charlotte On Sept. 14, 2013, Jonathan Ferrell was shot and killed by a police officer named Randall "Wes" Kerrick in Charlotte, North Carolina. Like a lot of recent police shootings, much of what we know about what happened comes from a video. But the way you see that video depends on who you are. Follow the show @NPREmbedded on Twitter, and follow our host @kellymcevers, and producers @cbndrv, @tomdreisbach, and @jonathanihirsch. Email us at embedded@npr.org
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Police Videos: Charlotte

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Police Videos: Charlotte

Police Videos: Charlotte

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I'm Kelly McEvers. And this is EMBEDDED, an NPR podcast where we take a story from the news and go deep. And today, we are talking about this story.


MCEVERS: It's a video. They call it a dash cam video. It's taken from the inside of a cop car. Watching it is like you are the cop driving fast to the scene of a 911 call around 2 o'clock in the morning in Charlotte, N.C. And here's what the cop knows at this point. A woman has called 911 and said a black man is trying to break into her house. In the car, the dispatcher says on the radio the suspect has tried to kick in the woman's door.


UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: (Unintelligible) has kicked in the door.

MCEVERS: And you can see what happens next. Officer pulls up to the scene. His headlights shine on a black man in a green T-shirt and light colored pants on the side of the road near the woman's house. He matches the description of the suspect. His name is Jonathan Ferrell.

At first you see Jonathan Ferrell walking toward the cops. Then you see both his hands go to his waist like he might be pulling up his pants. And then you see a red dot on his chest. We later learn it's from another officer's Taser. And then Jonathan Ferrell starts to run. And he runs right off camera. So now, we don't see anyone in the video. All that's left is audio. You hear a third officer, Randall Wes Kerrick, tell Jonathan Ferrell to stop.


RANDALL KERRICK: Get on the ground. Get on the ground. Get on the ground.

MCEVERS: And then you hear this.


MCEVERS: Twelve gunshots.


MCEVERS: Four, then six, then one, then one.


UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER #1: (Unintelligible) shots fired. Shots fired.

MCEVERS: Officers handcuff Jonathan Ferrell, tell him not to move.


KERRICK: Don't move. Don't move.

MCEVERS: And then he dies. This all happened in 2013. It is one of the early shootings in the Black Lives Matter era that was caught on video and that got national attention. Well, actually the shooting wasn't really captured on video. Like I said, most of what happens, happens off camera. So when people watch the video, they see all kinds of different things. What they see depends on who they are.


MCEVERS: And that means a case like this never really gets resolved. So what we're going to do today is tell you all the different versions of this story that have come out since the shooting and then tell you which version won out in the end. Just so you know, it did not go the way some people thought it would.


MCEVERS: OK. Now, back to the story.

CACHE HEIDEL: We met my junior year in high school. We met in high school. We were high school sweethearts. It was the beginning of our junior year. And we had a class together.

MCEVERS: Cache Heidel and Jonathan Ferrell went to high school in Tallahassee, Fla. That class they met in was Future Business Leaders of America. They had to do this exercise where you interview one of your classmates, then introduce them to everybody else.

HEIDEL: It was funny how it all worked out 'cause we just happened to be paired up. And I was like, hey, we need to get this done. I need to present you, like, get it done, get it over with. So that's how we met.

MCEVERS: So you guys were together for a long time.

HEIDEL: Yeah. So it was eight years. So by the time he passed away, I was 24, so a third of my life. So...

MCEVERS: Oh, my gosh.

HEIDEL: Yeah. Best friends.

MCEVERS: Cache says Jonathan had these sleepy eyes. Her nickname for him was Sweets. Cache went to Florida State. Jonathan got a scholarship to play football at Florida A&M. He was on the team for three seasons. They got engaged. They moved to Charlotte. Cache got her master's in accounting. Jon (ph) worked at Dillard's and Best Buy and was looking into working in auto mechanics. By September 2013, Cache was working as a tax accountant. And the 13 of that month was a Friday.

HEIDEL: That day, I remember it was busy season for me. And one of my frustrations with Jon was like, you know, you need to pin down a career, figure it out so we can, like, really start getting - like, we had been engaged for a while. And it was because I wanted to be more stable before we got married and started having kids and stuff.

And that was our argument that morning was I need him to get focused and get off the ground, start doing it, stop talking, do it. We somehow got into a fight, not a fight but an argument. And I left the house mad. And he texts me. He's like - I think he did say this and I just ignored him. He said, I love you. And I ignored him. And I walked out the house. And he said, I hope you have a nice day. He texted me that. And I didn't text him back.


MCEVERS: Cache works all day, then goes out with her friends. And while she's out, Jonathan comes home, changes clothes and goes out with some of his friends.

HEIDEL: And so I came home like around 11. And he wasn't home. And so typically John would - he worked late nights at Best Buy. He'll have to close down. And then he'll come home. But he won't jump in bed. He'll go and lay on the couch because he wouldn't want to wake me. So I woke up at 2. And I noticed that he wasn't next to me. And I was like, OK, well, maybe he's sleeping on the couch. No big deal. Like, I'm just going to roll over and go back to sleep.

MCEVERS: Jonathan is not on the couch. About a half an hour after Cache rolls over, Jonathan shows up in the headlights of three police cars on the side of the road. One cop points his taser at him. He starts running. And we know what happens next - four, then six, then one, then one.


UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER #1: (Unintelligible) shots fired. Shots fired.

MCEVERS: A few hours later, cops go to Cache's house and tell her what happened.

HEIDEL: And we sit down on the couch. And they started asking me questions. And then they say, well, Jon was in an officer-involved shooting. So I was like, well, y'all shot him. So I knew that was what happened.

MCEVERS: Did you say that?

HEIDEL: I didn't say that to them. But I - when they say officer involved, I mean, they're not going to really tell me straight up that we shot your fiance. But I can read between lines pretty well.


MCEVERS: While those cops are doing that, a whole bunch of other cops and first responders are at the scene. They investigate the case like any other homicide. EMTs find the shooter, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Randall Wes Kerrick slumped over in his squad car. They later testify he's upset, can't breathe, has high blood pressure. They take him and the other two officers down to headquarters for questioning.

As one firetruck is leaving the scene, it has its spotlights on. And it picks up something in the woods. It's the car Jonathan Ferrell was driving that night - actually, Cache's car. The front and side are wrecked. The front airbags are inflated. The back window is smashed out.

Investigators start to think maybe there's more to this than just a breaking and entering that went wrong. Down at headquarters around 7:30 in the morning, they start questioning Officer Kerrick. And they record it.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: The first investigation into the internal (ph) investigation...

MCEVERS: So far, all we know is what happened on the video. Cops get called to a breaking and entering. They see a guy who matches the description. He walks. One cop tries to tase him. He runs. One cop shoots him.

Now you're going to hear Officer Kerrick's version. The tape isn't great. It's pretty hard to hear. But you can hear Kerrick telling investigators that when he first pulls up to where Jonathan Ferrell is, he hears a, quote, "loud grunt sound."


KERRICK: ...Loud human grunt sound coming from across the street.

MCEVERS: He says he knew it was human.


KERRICK: I knew it was a human.

MCEVERS: He and the other cops go toward the voice.


KERRICK: I started to walk up. I was the first one on the scene.

MCEVERS: Kerrick says Jonathan Ferrell had crazy-looking eyes, gray eyes, like they were a hologram of some sort.


KERRICK: They almost looked like they were a hologram of some sort.

MCEVERS: Then, another officer, Thornell Little, tries to tase him, but Kerrick says the Taser doesn't seem to work. Kerrick draws his gun, yells for the subject to stop, he says, but Jonathan Ferrell is still coming towards him. So when Jonathan Ferrell gets within 10 feet, Kerrick starts firing his gun.


KERRICK: Ten feet of me.

MCEVERS: But he says, it started to seem like his firearm just wasn't working, so he fired some more.

Sergeant Leigh Ann Ayler (ph) asks Kerrick if he could see anything in Jonathan Ferrell's hands and Kerrick says no.


KERRICK: In the process, I was still backpedaling.

MCEVERS: She says, can you try to just clarify what aggressive act he was doing that made you feel like you needed to shoot at him? I mean, what was going through your head?


KERRICK: I felt like that if I do not shoot at him that he - he was acting like he was going to cause me harm.

MCEVERS: Then Ayler says, did you consider reholstering and going hands on?


LEIGH ANN AYLER: And going hands on?

KERRICK: I wouldn't have had time. I wouldn't have had time to holster my weapon. The only other option would've been for me to turn around and run.

MCEVERS: After an hour and a half, the interview is over. Kerrick asks the investigators if it will get any easier.


KERRICK: Will it get any easier? Will this get any easier for me?

MCEVERS: They don't answer his question. Kerrick's lawyer, who was with Kerrick, says one officer tells him to go home and have a beer.

The job of investigators is to see if Kerrick's story matches the stories of the other cops and if it matches the evidence. The key piece of evidence here is the video.


MCEVERS: Down at headquarters, the chief of police, some of his deputies, the district attorney and other investigators sit down to watch it.

RODNEY MONROE: And it was - it was pretty heart-wrenching to watch.

MCEVERS: Rodney Monroe was the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief at the time. As soon as he saw this video, he knew the case was going to change from the usual officer-involved shooting, that's usually ruled justified, to something else.

What did your gut tell you when you watched that?

MONROE: Initially, you know, mine - and as well as others - was, you know, why? I mean, we were trying to determine why that initial shot was fired and what was happening in that split second that caused that first shot to be fired.

MCEVERS: Rodney Monroe is now retired. He hasn't talked much about this case publicly. He says he watched the video several times that day. Another investigator watched it dozens of times.


UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER #2: (Unintelligible) Shots fired, shots fired...


MCEVERS: Monroe says they just couldn't escape the fact that Jonathan Ferrell was so clearly unarmed. And three officers should have been able to handle one unarmed man without shooting. Rodney Monroe says the way they came to understand the answer to that question why - why did Kerrick fire the first shot? - was because Kerrick was afraid. But because Jonathan Ferrell was unarmed, Monroe says, he shouldn't have been afraid.

MONROE: Fear can engulf you in a manner that won't allow you to think logically or based on your training. And I think more force was used than what was necessary, than what he was met with.

MCEVERS: So Monroe and his team of investigators decide they have no choice but to charge Kerrick with voluntary manslaughter, which means an intentional killing resulting from some kind of provocation. Monroe says the decision was unanimous in that room. But he knew it would not be a popular decision.

MONROE: I believed that there were going to be people that felt differently about it.

MCEVERS: But you did it anyway.

MONROE: Yeah, but I - because I believe that was the right thing to do.

MCEVERS: Rodney Monroe is the first black police chief at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. This case was the first time in 30 years an officer had been charged for shooting someone on the job. I can see what Rodney Monroe was saying. Wes Kerrick is afraid of Jonathan Ferrell. But why is he afraid?


MCEVERS: So, by this point, Officer Kerrick has already been told to go home and have a beer. Kerrick's lawyer, Michael Greene, has gone home to get some sleep after being up all night with his client. Later that day, one of the officers calls and wakes him up.

MICHAEL GREENE: I hadn't been asleep for an hour and a half when I get a phone call saying, Mike, we're going to be arresting Officer Kerrick for voluntary manslaughter. And we'd like you to turn him in within the hour. I told him, you just told him to go have drinks.

MCEVERS: If you don't bring Kerrick in within the hour, Greene says the officer told him, we're going to send out the violent crimes task force. So Kerrick turns himself in, is booked and put in jail. The next day, he gets out on bail.

But then, there's a problem with the case. The district attorney recuses himself because he used to work for the firm that represents Kerrick. The case gets kicked up to the state, and some state investigators think Kerrick shouldn't be charged. There are already people in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department who think Kerrick shouldn't be charged. And all this makes Rodney Monroe very worried.

MONROE: I don't believe any amount of evidence either way could have changed any of those individuals' minds. And I think that if you're looking at a department of, you know, close to 2,400 men and women from all parts of the community, that that was a pretty good gauge of what kind of jury you were going to have as well.

MCEVERS: By the time the case finally goes to trial, Rodney Monroe, the police chief who brought the first criminal charges against an officer for shooting someone in three decades, retires and goes on a golf vacation in Scotland. He says he can't even bear to watch the trial on TV.

It turns out the piece of evidence that made him feel so strongly that Officer Wes Kerrick should be charged - the dash cam video showing Jonathan Ferrell was unarmed - is the same piece of evidence that gets used in another way and totally turns this case in a different direction. After the break, what happened in the courtroom.


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MCEVERS: OK. Like I've been saying, the video from the night Jonathan Ferrell was shot does not tell the whole story. At trial, the prosecutors and defense attorneys have to fill in the rest, what happened before, during and after the video so when they show it the jurors will see it their way. Here are the questions they have to answer. Before the video, was Jonathan Ferrell breaking in and entering? During the video, was Jonathan Ferrell pulling up his pants or could he have had a gun? Why did he run through the Taser? Was he running at officers or away from officers? And then, after the video, was Jonathan Ferrell going for Kerrick's gun?


ADREN HARRIS: On September the 14, 2013, at approximately 1:30 a.m., Jonathan Ferrell volunteered to drive his friend, Max Funderburke home.

MCEVERS: First up is lead prosecutor Adren Harris. We're going to play excerpts of his opening argument. And he tells the story of how Jonathan Ferrell took his friend home that night and then crashed his car in the woods.


HARRIS: The car was so damaged that Jonathan had to exit through the rear window.

MCEVERS: Then he walked up toward the house of a woman named Sarah McCartney.


HARRIS: He walked to the front door. He began banging loudly on the front door to attract attention.

MCEVERS: Sarah McCartney wakes up and opens the door thinking it's her husband whose forgotten his key. Her alarm goes off. She sees Jonathan, slams the door and calls 911.


HARRIS: Now, during this encounter, at no time did Jonathan make any threatening statements to Ms. McCartney, did Jonathan brandish any weapons, did Jonathan try to force his way inside her home, did Jonathan vandalize any property. Now, while Ms. McCartney's on the phone with the 911 operator and the CPI alarm is going off, Jonathan is in the yard yelling to Ms. McCartney, turn off the alarm, come back, turn off the alarm, come back 'cause he's seeking help.

MCEVERS: And this is important. The officers were told he was trying to break into the house. Prosecutor Adren Harris says he was just looking for help. The next thing that happens is the officers show up and see Jonathan near the woman's house.


HARRIS: As Jonathan gets closer, the officers see he had no weapons. At one point, Officer Little puts the red dots or the red beams on Jonathan's body to get ready to execute his Taser.

MCEVERS: But, Harris says, the Taser doesn't work. And now Jonathan Ferrell is scared.


HARRIS: It is at that point that Jonathan is in fear for his life of being shot. He starts to run or to trot.

MCEVERS: In other words, on the video, he is running away from the cops.


HARRIS: Now, in his path as he's trying to run, defendant is standing there with his firearm. Defendant starts backpedaling as Jonathan is running. Defendant fires 12 shots.

MCEVERS: Ten of those shots hit Jonathan.


HARRIS: And Jonathan's body comes to rest. Prior to Jon being shot 10 times, Jonathan never made any verbal threats to any of the officers. He never tried to fight, kick, bite, scratch any of the officers. He never brandished a weapon to - at any of the officers. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I ask you this, who polices the police when they do wrong? You do.

MCEVERS: The prosecution calls Cache Heidel, Jonathan's fiancee, shows Jonathan's bloodstained clothes and the autopsy report and calls the lead Charlotte police trainer, who says this shooting was not justified. Then it's the defense's turn to tell a story. In his opening statements - we're going to play some of those, too - defense attorney Michael Greene says Jonathan Ferrell was behaving erratically that night.


GREENE: In this case, the factual evidence is going to tell you, show you that Jonathan Ferrell was in an argument with his fiancee earlier that day about getting his life together.

MCEVERS: And later, Greene says, Jonathan drank and smoked weed.


GREENE: That they drank and smoked so much that on - as Jonathan Ferrell was leaving, his friend sent him a text - good look on the ride.

MCEVERS: Greene says Jonathan Ferrell crashes his car in the woods, then goes up to Sarah McCartney's house. But he makes it seem like Jonathan Ferrell was not looking for help. He was trying to break in.


GREENE: Sarah McCartney, the evidence will show, was awakened by loud knocking, her 1-year-old son in the adjacent room. It's 2:36 in the morning. She goes up to the door. But what does she see when she opens the door? Well, what she was a man in a karate stance getting ready to kick the door. And so she closes the door very quickly. What she didn't hear - help me. What she didn't hear and what you'll never hear - I've been in an accident. What did Sarah McCartney hear? Turn off your alarm. Turn it off. Sarah McCartney was afraid.

MCEVERS: And when the cops show up, Greene says, Jonathan Ferrell charges at them.


GREENE: Officer Little deploys his Taser but that Taser has no effect. The suspect then charges directly at Officer Kerrick, who begins to retreat.

MCEVERS: Notice how Greene does not say Jonathan Ferrell, he says the suspect. Before the trial, the defense filed a motion to not allow the word victim when talking about Ferrell. And the judge granted the motion. So at this point, Jonathan Ferrell grabs his waistband.


GREENE: And the suspect is within reach of Officer Kerrick. Officer Kerrick sees him reach down towards his waistband.

MCEVERS: Greene is implying Jonathan could have been going for a knife or gun.


GREENE: Officer Kerrick fires his weapon. And the suspect tackles him into a dark ditch.

MCEVERS: Greene says Jonathan Ferrell then starts climbing up Kerrick's leg trying to get Kerrick's gun. Kerrick keeps firing. Then Jonathan Ferrell dies.


GREENE: Ladies and gentlemen, this case is not about race. It never was. This case is about choices, Jonathan Ferrell's bad choices. His bad choices forced Officer Kerrick to have to make the ultimate choice - to protect himself and to protect his other federal officers from death or serious bodily injury.

MCEVERS: We should say that this defense attorney, Michael Greene, and the lead prosecutor, Adren Harris, are both black.


MCEVERS: There are two more important voices to hear from the trial. First, Sarah McCartney, the woman who called 911. And we should say she is white. She's one of the first witnesses to go up on the stand. And that lets the defense play the 911 call early in the trial.

We're going to play part of it now. You can hear her alarm going off in the background. And you can hear the genuine fear in her voice.


SARAH MCCARTNEY: Nine-one-one, hello? I need help.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: What's going on there?

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

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: There's a guy breaking in your front door?

MCCARTNEY: Yeah. He's trying to kick it down.

MCEVERS: Do you know this person, the operator says. He's a black man, McCartney says.


UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: OK, Sarah. You said he's a black male?


UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: OK. (Unintelligible). All right. OK. I'm right here.

MCEVERS: It's hard to hear, but in the background, Jonathan Ferrell is knocking or pounding on the door and telling Sarah McCartney to turn off the alarm.



UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: You thought it was your husband? Where's he at now?

MCCARTNEY: He's still there yelling. Oh, my God. (Unintelligible).

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: Where are you at in the house? Where are you at in the house?

MCCARTNEY: He's yelling to turn off the alarm. Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: All right. Do you have your baby with you?

MCCARTNEY: No. He's in his bed. I don't know what to do.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: It's OK. I'm right here. The police are on their way, OK?

MCCARTNEY: Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: I know. Is he still in the house? Did he leave yet?

MCCARTNEY: No. He's not in the house. He's in the front yard yelling. Oh, my God, please. Oh, my God. I can't believe I opened the door...


MCEVERS: The most dramatic part of the trial is when Officer Wes Kerrick is called to testify. He starts by talking about how his mother died when he was 4. His father was disabled. And he helped support the family when he was in high school. He couldn't get into college. But he wanted to be a cop. So he first had to work in animal control to get experience. By the time of the shooting, he had been a cop for about two years.


GREENE: So how tall was the suspect?

MCEVERS: You can hear his lawyer, Michael Greene, and the judge, Robert Ervin, ask what happened that night. You hear Kerrick first.


KERRICK: The suspect began aggressively coming towards me.

GREENE: And could you tell the jury about what pace he was coming at you?

KERRICK: At first, it was a pretty rapid pace, more of a fast walk. I gave loud verbal commands for him to stop and get on the ground.

GREENE: How loud were your verbal commands?

KERRICK: Very loud.

GREENE: Tell us - show the jury how loud you were yelling to the suspect and what you were yelling to the suspect.

KERRICK: (Shouting) Get on the ground. Get on the ground. Get on the ground.

ROBERT ERVIN: Did the suspect say anything to you?

KERRICK: No, sir.

GREENE: What did you interpret his body language to mean?

KERRICK: He was going to attack me. He was going to assault me. He was going to take my gun from me.

GREENE: Did you have time to holster your weapon?

KERRICK: No, sir. And here I was - suspect matched the description. And he just ran through a Taser, which, at the time, I thought was - had worked. I thought the Taser had struck and made contact.

MCEVERS: It was later determined the Taser in fact missed Jonathan Ferrell, but Kerrick didn't know that at the time. And he says he didn't know if Jonathan Ferrell was armed or not even though he has empty hands in the video.


KERRICK: And I had absolutely no idea if he had a weapon on him or not.

GREENE: And was he ever - was the suspect ever still?

KERRICK: No, sir.

GREENE: Did he continue to advance on you?

KERRICK: Yes, sir. No matter what I did, he wouldn't stop. I wasn't sure how many rounds I had fired. None of them affected him in any way. I didn't think my gun was working. I thought I was going to die because nothing I would do would stop him.

GREENE: What was the reason that you continued to fire your weapon?

KERRICK: Because he wouldn't stop. He kept trying to get to my gun.


MCEVERS: This is Kerrick's version, right? Jonathan Ferrell was running at him, not away from him, and then Kerrick starts shooting. And then Jonathan Ferrell ends up on top of Kerrick. Kerrick says that's when Jonathan Ferrell was coming for his gun. I remember talking to Chief Rodney Monroe about this. He was like, maybe he wasn't coming for his gun. Maybe he was just dying.


MCEVERS: So after 11 days of testimony, the jury goes to deliberate. And here's an important thing to remember - the jury's job is to decide whether the shooting was legally justified, not whether it was morally right or wrong. They have to stand in the officer's shoes in that moment and decide whether it was reasonable for him to shoot or not. They've already watched the video a bunch of times at trial. They'll watch it four more times during deliberations.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Unintelligible) Shots fired, shots fired.

BRUCE RAFFE: We were six to six at one point.

MCEVERS: Bruce Raffe was the foreman of the jury. I went to see him at his house in Charlotte.

RAFFE: So yeah, anyway, we got...

MCEVERS: He says, at first, they were split down the middle.

RAFFE: And we all saw the same thing, but in the courtroom, there was 12 of us trying to deliberate on what exactly we were looking at. There were six opinions one way, there were six another. We were sitting in that courtroom, and we were sitting in that jury deliberation room. It was bigger than this living room, OK? And it's hot. We're arguing. We're - it's going nowhere. And so the more it went on - this went on for days.

MCEVERS: Raffe, who's white, says he knew how he was going to vote from pretty much the beginning of the trial. He would vote to acquit Officer Wes Kerrick. He says he made up his mind the first time he saw the video. And here's what he thought of Jonathan Ferrell in that video.

RAFFE: A young man, distraught, disheveled, confused, angry, if you will, making a very aggressive move towards these police officers after disobeying commands. He had many choices in this video, and it was clear from the very first time I viewed it. Stop, sit down, put your hands up - do any of those things other than what you chose to do, which was to charge Officer Kerrick. And so there's no other way around what I saw, and I kept coming back to that.

MCEVERS: So Raffe tries to convince the six jurors on the other side to join him and in the end, two jurors do. That means eight jurors, most of them white, side with Raffe to acquit Kerrick. And four jurors, most of them people of color, say they want to convict Kerrick. Bruce Raffe says his decision was not about race. He says if his own son did what Jonathan Ferrell did, he would expect him to be shot too. Moses Wilson, who's black, was on the other side. He was one of the four who wanted to convict Kerrick.

MOSES WILSON: How are you doing?


I went to see him too at his house in Charlotte. He and Bruce Raffe live about 30 miles apart in suburban neighborhoods that look almost identical. He says, from the very beginning, he was skeptical of Kerrick's version of what happened. And he says it was unfair the defense tried to put Jonathan Ferrell on trial.

WILSON: This is an old trick from defense attorneys. He wasn't supposed to be here. He might have had a few drinks where he was. The police responded to what he caused. This was early in the morning. This was far from where he lived. This was this, this was that, which caused me, at the end, to write on the board, just what did he do to deserve to be shot so many times? I - there's no...

MCEVERS: In the jury room.

WILSON: In the jury room. I wrote this on the board. I heard all these things, but what did he do? And the defense for Kerrick could not come up with anything that he had done.

MCEVERS: Moses Wilson says he thinks some people voted to acquit because of race.

WILSON: That is the most - that is the deepest and the darkest of reasons, and it will haunt whoever did it for the rest of their lives. That's the truth.

MCEVERS: I want to know what it felt like to be sitting in that jury room so sure of your version of what happened when the person next to you thinks exactly the opposite and is so sure of himself too. I ask Bruce Raffe about this.

But does it ever drive you crazy that the same people can watch the same thing and come to such different conclusions?

RAFFE: Yes. It's almost disheartening because you can't...

MCEVERS: 'Cause you feel so strongly. Like, you feel very confident. You're 100 percent confident in your decision but then to be sitting right next to somebody else who's that confident in the opposite thing based on the same set of facts...

RAFFE: I'm wondering what they're not seeing, what they didn't hear, why - yeah, why aren't they, you know, siding with me on this decision? I felt very confident that the decision that I was making and the decisions that I was formulating to know that Officer Kerrick was not guilty, I had a hard time understanding why others didn't.

MCEVERS: So after three days of trying, the jury deadlocks at eight to four. The only way to get a verdict is 12 to zero.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: A judge declares a mistrial in a high-profile police shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: A mistrial declared in the case of a police shooting in North Carolina after the jury deadlocks.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Jonathan Ferrell's family stood outside of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse asking the state to consider retrying Kerrick's.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: We must get justice. Jonathan was an innocent bystander looking for help and killed.

MCEVERS: But the prosecution decides not to retry the case. The same video that helped Kerrick get charged with voluntary manslaughter in the end helps Kerrick go free. One side saw the video and saw an unarmed man who didn't deserve to be shot. The other side saw a legal and justified shooting of someone they believed was a threat to a police officer. Kerrick later settles with the city for back pay, and as part of that settlement, he resigns from the police department. His lawyer says he now works in sales. Juror Moses Wilson says there is some justice in the fact that Kerrick is no longer a police officer. Wilson and juror Bruce Raffe say they are totally confident with the way they voted. But there are still so many questions about this case. And the main question I still have is this - how can people see the same thing and think so differently? And what does that mean is going to happen in other cases like these?

There's another guy we talked to about all this. He's a lawyer named Charles Monnett. He represented Jonathan Ferrell's family in a civil case against the city of Charlotte. And when I asked him how it was possible there could be two such starkly different versions of the same thing, he was kind of like, yeah, welcome to the club, kid.

CHARLES MONNETT: People see what they want to see. Go back to Rodney King.


MONNETT: Which is probably the first and most famous of all these police videos, whereas in the end it wasn't enough.

MCEVERS: What do you mean?

MONNETT: Wasn't enough to get convictions...

MCEVERS: Oh, for the cops.

MONNETT: ...For the police officers, yeah.

MCEVERS: And you see what you see on the video.

MONNETT: Confirmation bias is what that's called. People see what they want to see. And they take their previous beliefs and they use the film to confirm whatever they are.

MCEVERS: But, like, do you think in this case that, like, the jurors go into a situation already thinking what they think, and so watching that video isn't going to change their mind?

MONNETT: They have attitudes that affect how they see the video and what they see in it. Almost no one can see those videos from a neutral perspective.

MCEVERS: But, he says, the video could have been used better by the prosecution during the trial. What he did when he deposed the other two officers who were there that night, Adam Neal and Thornell Little, for the civil case, he took their statements about what happened and compared them to the video frame by frame. And we read this in the deposition. What he was able to show was there were discrepancies between what the officers said happened and what actually happens on the video. Like, Neal had said just before he started running that night Jonathan Ferrell hitched up his shoulders like he was fixing for a fight. But then they watched the video, where it looks like Jonathan Ferrell is just pulling up his pants. In the end, the city settles Monnett's case and pays the Ferrell family $2.25 million dollars. It is not an admission of guilt by the city. The Ferrell family says they hope Jonathan's death will result in permanent changes to the police department.

I keep thinking about this. These videos do give us more information than we had before, but they don't give us everything we need. The first time Cache Heidel, Jonathan Ferrell's fiancee, saw the video of his shooting was at police headquarters before the trial with Johnathan's family and Chief Rodney Monroe.

HEIDEL: We were all in, like, a boardroom kind of. And we're sitting on these long tables. And you just see the big screen and you see it happen. It's really quick. It didn't really hit you until you saw it.

MCEVERS: After that day, Cache watched it again on her own kind of a lot.

HEIDEL: You just keep watching to see if something else is going to pop out, you know? That - and that's my last - that's his last breath. That's the last bit I had of - I had him on this earth. So you try to - you see his frame, try to remember everything about him in that six-second video. And then you try to figure out, well, what was he thinking? Like, how did it happen? It's just individually you've got to stop watching it because nothing's going to happen.

MCEVERS: Did you stop?


MCEVERS: Did anybody tell you to stop, or did you just...

HEIDEL: No, I just stopped. Nobody knew.

MCEVERS: That you were watching. You, like, had it on your computer. Yeah.

HEIDEL: So you drive yourself crazy.

MCEVERS: Yeah, trying to answer questions that...

HEIDEL: You can't answer.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Black lives matter. Black lives matter. Black lives matter.

MCEVERS: Jonathan Ferrell was killed in 2013. The trial was in 2015. In September 2016, it happens again in Charlotte. A black man is shot and killed by police. Protests go on for days and they get really intense. Police are injured. One protester is shot. And protesters say the name of the black man who was killed by the police, Keith Lamont Scott. They say another name, too, Jonathan Ferrell. One Charlotte-based journalist tells us it's a wound that has never healed.

Since 2005, an estimated 12,000 people have been killed by police in the U.S. I say estimated because no one keeps an official national record. The estimate comes from a criminologist and former cop at Bowling Green State who researches this stuff. Most of these shootings were justified, but still, of those thousands of cases, only 79 police officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter as the result of an on-duty shooting. And just a third of those have ended in convictions, many because the accused officer pled guilty.

That means only 14 - 14 - police officers out of 79 have been found guilty by a jury since 2005. The most recent case where the video seemed so clear-cut was in South Carolina, where an officer was shown shooting a man in the back. But even that case ended with a hung jury. The criminologist - his name is Phil Stinson - says some jurors just don't want to believe a police officer can also be a murderer.

He did tell us one thing. As unsatisfying as the final result of a trial like this might be, the video did move the needle just a little. Lawyers were able to challenge what the police officer said. Wes Kerrick is no longer a cop. And this case would never have even gone to trial if it hadn't been for the video. Kerrick would have just gone home to have a beer, and that would have been it. Before we had these videos, Phil Stinson told us, the dead man couldn't talk. Now, in some ways, he can.

This episode was reported by Tom Dreisbach and me. It was produced by Tom, Jonathan Hisrch and Chris Benderev. It was edited by Neal Carruth and Sean Cole with help from Neva Grant, Yowei Shaw, Maggie Penman, Martin Kaste, Denice Rios, Steve Drummond and Greg Collard. Our technical director is Andy Huether. We want to say a huge thanks to the peeps at NPR member station WFAE in Charlotte, especially Greg Collard, Gwendolyn Glenn, Duncan McFadyen, Tom Bullock and Jen Lang. Long live The Thirsty Beaver. Big thanks to Mary Curtis of Roll Call and Fred Clasen-Kelly and Michael Gordon of the Charlotte Observer. Digital production for this episode was by Alexander McCall, fact-checking from Greta Pittenger. Our theme song is by Colin Wambsgans. Other original music is by Jonathan Hirsch. EMBEDDED is executive produced by me, Chris Turpin and Anya Grundmann. Our events manager and spirit guide is Joanna Pawlowska.

EMBEDDED will be live here in LA March 30. Get tickets at nprpresents.org. You can hear more NPR on your local public radio station on another show I host called All Things Considered. Next week on EMBEDDED, we take a long look at a very different kind of police video.


UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER #3: You mind if I just pat down your pockets real quick? You don't have anything in here?




UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: (Unintelligible) 911, where's your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER #4: We've got a man down. Multiple shots fired out back in the alley.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #6: There really can't ever be any closure in this. It's on the internet now. It'll never not be in people's face.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #7: I've watched it three times.

MCEVERS: How come?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #7: I just wanted to see it.

MCEVERS: What are you looking for, you know, or...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #7: I don't know, just to hear his voice again, I think.


UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER #3: We've got another call coming in. Can I call you back?

MCEVERS: If you haven't done it yet, subscribe to this podcast. And also, we're asking our listeners to tell a friend about a podcast they love. You don't have to say EMBEDDED, but you know. Just post the name of the podcast on social media with the hashtag #trypod. That's T-R-Y-P-O-D. OK, that's all. I'm Kelly McEvers. Thanks for listening.

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