Police Shooting of Young Black Car Accident Victim Raises ConcernsSeptember 23, 2013

In another incident that is raising national alarm about racial profiling and presumptions of guilt, 24-four-year-old Jonathan Ferrell was shot to death by police in northeast Mecklenburg, North Carolina, near Charlotte, after he sought help following a car accident.

The former Florida A&M football player had just dropped off a friend at home nearby when his Toyota Camry veered off the road in the early morning hours of September 14, leaving the car so badly mangled that Mr. Ferrell had to kick out a rear window to get out. He stumbled down a rural stretch of road in search of help and knocked on the door of a home about a quarter mile away in the Bradfield Farms neighborhood.

Sarah McCartney, who is white, thought her husband was returning home from work and opened the door, but quickly slammed the door when she saw Mr. Ferrell, who is black. She then called 911 and reported that he was trying to break into her home.

Three police officers responded to the call. A video camera mounted on the police car's dashboard captured part of what happened next but the video has not been released to the public. A lawyer for Mr. Ferrell's family was allowed to review a 20-second clip and told reporters that it shows the red laser beams of a Taser on Mr. Ferrell’s chest as he hitched up his pants and stretched out his arms to show he was unarmed.

Officer Randall Kerrick then fired twelve shots at Mr. Ferrell with his handgun, hitting him ten times. Kerrick, 27, white, and in his third year with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, has been charged with voluntary manslaughter.

Whether police gave commands to get down before or after opening fire remains unclear. Police chief Rodney Monroe told the Charlotte Observer that it didn’t matter whether Mr. Ferrell complied with officers’ commands or had his hands up. It was clear that Mr. Ferrell was unarmed, Chief Monroe said, and Officer Kerrick’s decision to shoot was unlawful.

Mr. Ferrell, a chemistry major with a 3.7 GPA, had moved from Florida to Charlotte to marry his high school sweetheart.