For a month, they closely watched the trial of one of their own as a jury tried to determine whether Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick used undue force when he fatally shot an unarmed man in 2013.
But when Judge Robert Ervin on Friday determined the jury was hopelessly deadlocked and declared a mistrial, many of the current and former rank-and-file officers who’d stood by Kerrick were relieved.
“A hung jury was what we were expecting,” said former CMPD Sgt. Randy Hagler, president of the state’s Fraternal Order of Police. “We thought it might go the way it went, based on the information we had. Personally, I’m a little disappointed. I was hoping the jury would come to a verdict and see it the way I thought the evidence was presented – that Officer Kerrick was justified.”
Officers have been reluctant to comment on the trial with the media, but Hagler said he’d talked to a few of his organization’s members after the mistrial and they “thought the same way I do.”
“There’s relief from the officers,” he said. “Obviously there are some folks in our community that don’t believe his actions were the right thing to do. I believe they were.”
Hagler said CMPD administration’s quick decision to arrest Kerrick – in less than 24 hours “without an investigation” – created tensions between officers and their superiors.
At a press conference, Chief Kerr Putney was asked about the division. “Some will have different opinions” within the department, he said. “But I expect those opinions to be set aside and for officers to serve their community.”
Putney said the department has the “appropriate number” of officers on duty and standby to respond to any incidents or reactions to the mistrial.
He said Kerrick will remain a part of the force until the judicial process runs its course. He added that the shooting incident will be part of ongoing training assessments. Yet though the jury heard two interpretations of whether Kerrick was trained to draw his weapon when a second officer aimed his Taser on the victim, Putney said the distinctions are clear:
“I understand the interpretations, but there’s no conflict in what is lethal cover and what is lethal force,” he said. “Only when an officer faces lethal force – the threat of harm or death – may he fire his weapon.”