Voluntary manslaughter trial starts for police officer who killed Jonathan Ferrell

african kings

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (AP) — A white Charlotte police officer on trial for the on-duty killing of a black man panicked and didn’t identify himself or give any commands before shooting 12 times at the agitated man seeking help in an unfamiliar neighborhood after a car crash, a prosecutor said during opening statements Monday.

The trial comes as U.S. continues a national debate over police tactics and black men dying during arrests or while in custody around the United States.

The September 2013 wreck was so violent that driver Jonathan Ferrell lost his cellphone and had to kick out a window to escape. He gave officer Randall Kerrick no reason to fear for his life and resort to deadly force, prosecutor Adren Harris said.

But an attorney for Kerrick said Ferrell made a number of bad choices after drinking and smoking marijuana following a fight with his fiancee. As officers arrived, he yelled “shoot me!” Ferrell then charged at Kerrick and two other officers and tried to grab Kerrick’s gun when he fell on him after being shot several times, defense attorney Michael Greene said.

“This case is not about race,” Greene said.

Kerrick, 28, is charged with voluntary manslaughter. He faces up to 11 years in prison if convicted.

Ferrell went to the first house he saw, kicking and pounding on the door. A woman inside, alone with her 1-year-old son, called police, reporting a home invasion. Ferrell, a 24-year-old former college football player, kept screaming “turn off your alarm!” Greene said.

Kerrick and the two other officers found Ferrell a short distance away. Ferrell charged them. At his autopsy, Ferrell’s DNA was found on Kerrick’s uniform and on the slide and trigger of the officer’s gun. Kerrick’s DNA was under Ferrell’s fingernails, Greene said.

Ferrell fell on Kerrick after he was shot four times, not because he was attacking the officer, Harris said. The eight additional shots came as Ferrell writhed and trying to crawl to escape, not as he reached for the gun, the lawyer said.

The other two officers at the scene did not shoot and were not charged.

Charlotte agreed to pay Ferrell’s family for $2.25 million earlier this year to settle a lawsuit over the shooting.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.