Officer Wes Kerrick interviewed by homicide detectives eleland@charlotteobserver.com
Officer Wes Kerrick interviewed by homicide detectives eleland@charlotteobserver.com

Crime

Live updates: Officer Kerrick said Ferrell had ‘crazy eyes,’ feared he would try to take his gun

By Elizabeth Leland and Langston Taylor

eleland@charlotteobserver.com

August 07, 2015 11:26 AM

UPDATED August 07, 2015 05:48 PM

Friday is the fifth 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. For a review of the basic facts of the case and links to prior reports, scroll to the bottom.

5:00 p.m. Kerrick weeps during 2013 interview about shooting

Halting and weeping, Officer Randall "Wes" Kerrick described shooting Jonathan Ferrell and told investigators in a 2013 video recording: "There was nothing I could do to get him off of me so I fired again."

It was the first time since the shooting that Kerrick has been heard in public.

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His account came during the last hour of court Friday as prosecutors played a video recording of two investigators interviewing the CMPD officer. On the recording Kerrick is still in his police uniform, seated at a table in a small interrogation room. Defense attorney Michael Greene sits with him.

Questioning begins about 7:19 a.m., a little over four hours after Kerrick shot and killed Ferrell. Kerrick hands over the .40 Caliber Smith & Wesson gun then he describes what happens.

As he approached the homeowner's house, he says, "I heard something like yelling. I heard a loud human grunt sound coming from across the street.... I couldn't tell if it was somebody screaming. I knew it was human."

He says he watched as Little fired his Taser but "The Taser did not affect the suspect in any way." He says Ferrell then turned his attention on him and approached.

"And he ... he kept coming towards me. I was yelling "Stop! Don't move! Stop where you're at!"

"I was giving loud verbal commands but he just wasn't paying any attention," Kerrick says. "He kept coming toward me. I fired again and in the process I was still backpedaling."

He says it seemed as his firearm wasn't working.

"Somehow I ended up on the ground. I'm not sure if he pushed me or tried to grab me."

At that point in the interview, Kerrick is choking up so much that Morales hands him a box of tissues.

Kerrick says Ferrell ended up on top of his feet and lower legs. "There was nothing I could do to get him off of me so I fired again."

3:30 p.m. Homicide detective reads portions of Kerrick’s account

Step by step, shot by shot, a homicide detective recounted Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick’s description of what happened the night he shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell.

After responding to a report of a possible breaking-and-entering, Kerrick said he was at the house that had placed the 911 call when he heard “a loud human grunt or yelling” coming from across the street, according to Detective Edwin Morales. Kerrick said he drove down the street, following Officer Thornell Little, Morales said.

Upon arriving, Kerrick said he saw Little standing near the rear of his cruiser with his Taser drawn, Morales said.

That’s when Kerrick first saw Ferrell, Morales said.

“He had crazy-looking eyes,” Kerrick told Morales.

Kerrick drew out his gun – he “went lethal” in police lingo. Kerrick told Morales that’s what he was trained to do if another officer draws his Taser.

“He’s just broke into a house,” Kerrick said, according to Morales. “If he’s got a gun ... that Taser, it’s gonna do nothing when somebody draws a gun on you.”

At that point, Kerrick said he saw red dots from Little’s Taser on Ferrell’s chest. Little fired. But Kerrick said the Taser didn’t work.

Kerrick said he was behind Little and commanded Ferrell to “Stop! Stop!” Kerrick then said Ferrell turned his attention to him and approached at a fast pace, Morales testified.

Ferrell made a gesture toward his right side then, Kerrick told Morales.

Kerrick fired. “It did not faze him,” Kerrick said, according to Morales.

Morales said Kerrick initially said he fired three to five shots, then changed it to two to three shots. All the while, he said, he was backpedaling.

“He feared that Jonathan was going to take his gun,” Morales said.

Kerrick said he ended up on the ground, but didn’t recall how, Morales said. Ferrell was down at his feet and lower legs, Kerrick told Morales.

Morales said Kerrick demonstrated how he was positioned on the ground: Sitting on his buttocks, his left arm back, his right leg extended, his left leg slightly bent, his gun in his right hand.

Kerrick told Morales he then fired two shots, striking Ferrell above the shoulder. He told Morales that Ferrell was grabbing his legs, trying to come up his body.

At that point in Morales’ testimony, court recessed for a break. After the break, prosecutors began playing the 70-minute interview that was recorded on video.

Kerrick's account of shooting

Detective Edwin Morales reads from transcript of interview of Officer Randall "Wes" Kerrick after he shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell.

eleland@charlotteobserver.com

12:25 p.m. Jurors shown blood-stained clothes

After hours of clinical testimony, Kerrick’s trial turned personal as a homicide detective unveiled Ferrell’s fingerprints, his hand prints, his watch – and then the clothes he died in.

Piece by piece, Detective Edwin Morales cut open evidence bags to reveal items gathered from Ferrell’s body: The black socks he wore as he approached police officers. His gray plaid boxer shorts stained with blood. His gray Levi jeans, also soiled with blood.

The courtroom fell silent as Morales held up the jeans, grass stains visible on one knee.

In the most dramatic moment, prosecutor Adren Harris rolled in a large package containing Ferrell’s short-sleeve teal T-shirt. Morales carefully cut off paper sealing the container. Then he slit through tape.

Inside the box was a mannequin, he said. On the mannequin, Ferrell’s blood-soaked shirt.

Morales turned the box so jurors could see inside, but carefully shielded the contents from the media and other courtroom observers.

11:55 a.m. Jurors examine gun, bullet fragments

Jurors saw the .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun that Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick used to shoot Jonathan Ferrell. They then saw the bullet fragments that lodged in Ferrell’s body.

Before a bailiff carried the gun over to the jury box, he secured the weapon with a zip-tie to prevent it from firing. Homicide Detective Edwin Morales then opened envelopes containing each bullet fragment. The first fragment, he cupped in gloved-hands and walked over to show jurors.

One by one, he identified the “spent projectiles” removed from Ferrell’s body by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh. Nine lodged in Ferrell’s chest, according to testimony Thursday, one in his left arm.

After identifying each fragment, Morales displayed them on a table for jurors to examine. The jurors paraded by in a line, looking over each one.

11:10 a.m. Ferrell’s blood not tested for marijuana

Jonathan Ferrell’s blood was not tested for THC, the principle chemical in marijuana, according to a state forensic chemist.

That explains why toxicology reports list only alcohol, caffeine and nicotine in Ferrell’s blood. Sandra Bishop-Freeman, deputy chief toxicologist in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said her office never tests for THC because it’s not toxic enough to cause death.

A co-worker testified earlier this week that he smoked marijuana with Ferrell that evening, before Ferrell wrecked his fiancee’s car.

The combination of marijuana with alcohol would cause mental impairment, with physical impairment varying from person to person, Bishop-Freeman said.

The state tested Ferrell’s blood twice for alcohol. The initial test showed a BAC level of 0.067. The confirmation test showed 0.069. Bishop-Freeman said the state always rounds the results down so Ferrell’s BAC level was listed as 0.06. The legal limit for driving is 0.08.

Defense attorney Michael Greene asked Bishop-Freeman to speculate what the BAC would have been in a person of Ferrell’s size – 6 feet, 225 pounds – an hour before. She estimated 0.084, based on a level of 0.069 (without rounding down).

Pressed by Greene to guess how many beers the person would have consumed, she offered “a very rough estimate” of four drinks.

Basic facts

Dashcam video in Kerrick case played in public for first time

A dashcam video that shows Jonathan Ferrell and police officers was shown in court during CMPD Officer Randall "Wes" Kerrick's voluntary manslaughter trial. |

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.

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 previous reports from inside the courtroom:

Monday live updates, Monday’s wrap-up story.

Tuesday live updates, Tuesday’s wrap-up story.

Wednesday live updates, Wednesday’s wrap-up story.

Thursday live updates, Thursday’s wrap-up story.