DAVIE HINSHAW dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com
DAVIE HINSHAW dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Crime

EMTs and scene investigators testify in shooting trial of CMPD Officer Kerrick

By Elizabeth Leland

eleland@charlotteobserver.com

August 04, 2015 10:13 AM

UPDATED August 04, 2015 06:30 PM

(Live updates from the courtroom below.)

Tuesday is the second full day of testimony in the voluntary manslaughter trial for Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick, who is accused of wrongfully killing Jonathan Ferrell in a late-night encounter in 2013.

Basic facts

A jury will decide whether Kerrick used excessive force when he fired 12 shots at Ferrell, or whether he was justified because he thought Ferrell posed a deadly threat.

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The 12-member jury has two people who are Latino, three African-American and seven white. Eight are women and four are men. The alternate jurors are all white, and consist of one man and three women.

If convicted, Kerrick faces three to 11 years in prison. He has been on unpaid suspension since the shooting.

According to police, Ferrell wrecked his fiancee’s car on his way home after an outing with friends and sought help at a house in a neighborhood east of Charlotte. The homeowner, afraid someone was trying to break in, called 911. Kerrick and two other officers responded, and the deadly confrontation ensued.

Ferrell, 24, had moved to Charlotte from Florida to be with his fiancee. He was a former scholarship football player for Florida A&M University. He was working at both Best Buy and Dillard’s at the time of his death.

To read the live report from Monday, click here. To read the end-of-day wrap-up story, click here.

3:30 p.m.: Deciding what photos can be shown

Out of the jury’s presence, the defense challenged a prosecutor’s attempt to introduce more photos of Jonathan Ferrell’s body. Attorney Michael Greene said the photos were repetitious, designed to evoke sympathy.

Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin blocked two photos, but allowed others. One shown to jurors is of Ferrell lying dead in a drainage ditch, a Taser nearby. Another shows Ferrell’s hands handcuffed behind his back. A third is of Kerrick’s patrol car with headlights and spotlight on.

K.C. Nyx, a crime scene investigator, testified that a person standing in front of Kerrick’s car might not be able to see what’s behind the bright lights. “The things behind the lights tend to fall into darkness as you’re looking at that bright light coming towards you,” Nyx said.

According to police, Ferrell ran in that direction after Officer Thornell Little aimed his Taser at Ferrell. Kerrick was standing there with his gun drawn.

The trial took it’s mid-afternoon recess at 3:17 p.m.

12:30 p.m.: Focus is on Ferrell’s car wreck

Ferrell’s car landed on top of trees and branches so that the right side was off the ground, according to testimony from C.L. Price, a crime scene investigator with CMPD. She said the driver’s door was partially ajar.

Among evidence she collected: A light green Polo ball cap in the woods near the driver’s side of the car, a cellphone on the driver’s side floorboard and a pocket knife. She also collected black pants and black Converse shoes found on the passenger side floorboard, one plaid Polo shoe found on the driver’s floorboard and the matching plaid shoe found on the rear floorboard.

When Ferrell died, he was wearing socks, but no shoes.

Price also collected liquid from a Circle K cup on the floorboard, a pay-stub lying on the side of the road near the car, an empty Heineken bottle up the road a bit and a pair of clip-on sunglasses not far from Sarah McCartney’s house. When court recessed at 12:30 p.m. for lunch, Price had not been asked to explain the significance of all the evidence she collected.

She also noted blood on the driver’s side air bag.

11:02 a.m. Court adjourns for morning recess; officer testifying

Robert Gormican, a CMPD detective, was called to investigate the car crash that preceded Ferrell’s death. It was on a dark stretch of road, he testified, with no overhead lights.

“The vehicle, instead of making the curve, went straight off the road,” Gormican testified. He saw no skid marks on the pavement. Tire tracks in the grass led into the woods where the car came to rest.

The front of the Toyota Camry, left rear and part of the right side were damaged, he testified. The rear window was shattered.

Gormican speculated that a broken tree hit the rear windshield and smashed it. In 2013, police said that Ferrell had to kick his way out of the car. Gormican said that was unlikely.

A photograph introduced as evidence shows that the front air bags deployed. The driver’s seat belt was extended and locked, Gormican testified. The driver’s door was partially opened.

The speed limit on Reedy Creek Road was 25 mph. Based on damage to the Camry and the tire tracks in the grass, Gormican calculated that Ferrell was driving at least 41 mph when the car left the road. He estimated that the car was still going 12 mph when it came to rest against a tree.

10:15 a.m. A second EMT testifies

EMT Kenneth Phillips described Kerrick as in shock, hyperventilating and with high blood pressure.

“He was pale, very sweaty,” Phillips said.

He said Kerrick refused to go to the hospital. No aid was administered to Ferrell, Phillips testified, because it wasn’t necessary. Ferrell was dead.

On cross-examination by defense attorney George Laughrun, Phillips said the injuries to Kerrick were consistent with being struck. On redirect by the prosecutor, Phillips said that the injuries could have been caused by a fall.

9:30 a.m.: EMT testifies about Kerrick’s injuries

EMT Jonathan Russell Freeze, whose testimony was underway when court recessed on Monday, was on the witness stand to open court on Tuesday.

Freeze said that when he arrived at the scene, Kerrick was slumped over in his patrol car. He said Kerrick told him he had been hit.

On cross-examination, Freeze said Kerrick’s demeanor was consistent with being hit in the mouth. He said Kerrick had a laceration on the inside of his mouth and a red mark on the outside, on his cheek.

“He was sitting in his car, like sideways,” Freeze testified. “His elbows were on his knees. He was slumped over.”

A second EMT, Kenneth Phillips, testified that the right side of Kerrick’s face was swollen.

What to expect Tuesday

The prosecution is continuing to present witnesses. A dashcam video is expected to be introduced this week, perhaps as early as Tuesday. The video has not been publicly released since the shooting.

The doors to courtoom 5370 at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse opened at 9:15 a.m. The room has 150 seats, available on a first-come, first-served basis. Some seats are reserved for family.

Court convened at 9:30 a.m.

Also reporting from the courthouse: Hayley Fowler and Langston Taylor.