CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Prosecutors in North Carolina will not seek a retrial of a police officer charged in the shooting death of an unarmed man, according to a letter from the state attorney general’s office.
Officer Randall Kerrick of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department was charged with voluntary manslaughter after he shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell, a college student and football player, in 2013.
A judge last week declared a mistrial after the jury could not reach a verdict.
Prosecutors made their decision after speaking with jurors from the original trial. They said they will submit paperwork for dismissal of the charge.
“In consideration of the jurors’ comments, the evidence available to the State, and our background in criminal trials, it is our prosecutors’ unanimous belief a retrial will not yield a different result,” said the state attorney general’s letter to the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said at a new conference on Friday that he still stands by the decision to bring the case to trial.
“The loss of Jonathan Ferrell’s life is a tragedy — it should not have happened,” Cooper said. “Our prosecutors have talked with Jonathan’s mother about this decision. It was the right thing to bring this case before a jury and seek a conviction, but now we need to listen to what the jury said.”
Cooper said Kerrick did not follow his training during his encounter with Ferrell.
“Most of them [police officers] …understand that officers must be held accountable when they do not follow their training — as happened here with tragic results,” Cooper said. “More consistent and better training for our law enforcement officers can save lives.”
Ferrell’s mother said the family doesn’t believe the case is over.
“We will not give up our fight. We must have justice,” Georgia Ferrell said.
Willie Ferrell, Jonathan’s brother, expressed disappointment in the jury, which, he said, should have seen that shooting an unarmed man is unjustified.
Willie Ferrell said he believes his brother was shot because of he was black. “It was a racial response. (Kerrick) built up the negative thought that (Jonathan) was going to steal his gun.”
Kerrick’s attorneys, Michael J. Greene and George V. Laughrun II, said that the officer is “relieved” and happy that he can return to his everyday life. They contend the case was never about race.
Ferrell, who played college football at Florida A&M University, was in a car wreck the night of September 14, 2013, that was so severe he needed to crawl out of the back window of his car, family attorney Chris Chestnut said. He then went to a house to get help.
The woman in the house called 911 thinking a stranger was trying to break in her front door.
According to Chestnut’s version of events, Ferrell was on the sidewalk when officers — Kerrick and two others — arrived and walked toward them because he was relieved they had arrived.
While dashcam video released at the trial indeed appears to show Ferrell walking toward officers, he quickly begins running toward police as lights hit his chest.
Someone shouts, “Get on the ground!” three times, and shots are heard.
Prosecutors said Ferrell started to run because he was afraid for his life after another officer pointed a Taser at him.
The dashcam video seems to exemplify the stark contrast in the accounts told by each side.
Before its release, Chestnut said the video showed Kerrick committed “cold-blooded murder” and it would show that Ferrell raised his hands, as if to say “wait.” Kerrick’s defense attorney, meanwhile, said in his opening statement that Ferrell became aggressive, pounding his thighs and taunting Kerrick, saying, “Shoot me! Shoot me!”
The video, however, didn’t show either event, and didn’t seem to make what happened any clearer.