Officer Randall 'Wes' Kerrick talks about shooting Jonathan Ferrell eleland@charlotteobserver.com
Officer Randall 'Wes' Kerrick talks about shooting Jonathan Ferrell eleland@charlotteobserver.com

Crime

Live updates: Police shooting trial focuses on Ferrell’s behavior, Kerrick’s training

August 10, 2015 10:22 AM

Monday began the second week of testimony in the voluntary manslaughter trial of 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.

(Added Monday: Full transcript of CMPD interview with Kerrick in 2013, a few hours after the shooting. Read it here.)

5 p.m.: Expert on use of force testifies

When court adjourned, CMPD Capt. Mike Campagna was on the witness stand but had not yet answered the key question:

What is his expert opinion about Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick’s use of deadly force?

In evaluating an officer’s use of force, he testified that he bases his decisions on the evidence and on CMPD’s policies about use of force.

In Kerrick’s case, he said he reviewed statements from the three officers on the scene, depositions from other CMPD employees, the 911 call, the dispatcher’s audio, the dashcam video, Ferrell’s autopsy, the scene itself and frame-by-frame still photographs.

Campagna’s testimony will resume at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

3:45 p.m. What Kerrick did versus what he was trained to do

Through testimony Monday, a prosecutor sought to juxtapose what Kerrick did on the night of the shooting with what he was trained to do.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department teaches officers to turn off a dashcam video only after “the event ends,” according to a sergeant in the training academy. Kerrick told investigators he turned off his dashcam before he arrived at the homeowner’s house. Officer Adam Neal, who arrived seconds after Kerrick that night, left his dashcam running and captured part of what happened.

In a lengthy recitation, CMPD Sgt. C.R. Williams Jr. outlined the different training Kerrick received, specifically on “use of force.”

Kerrick was certified by the state as a police officer in October 2011 after completing officer training school. He then trained one-on-one with a veteran officer for his first 14 weeks as a sworn officer, Williams said, and continued to receive training afterward.

Teresa Postell, an assistant N.C. attorney general who is one of the prosecutors, had Williams read some directives about force: Officers are taught to minimize their use of force, to control an aggressive person with a Taser and to resort to deadly force only when the officer reasonably believes the person poses a risk to his life, the lives of others or to the public.

It will be up to jurors to determine whether Kerrick followed those directives.

2:45 p.m. Prosecutor counters defense over what Ferrell could see

With a last round of questions for a homicide detective, prosecutors countered the contention from defense lawyers that Ferrell could clearly see police on the night he was shot.

A witness testified last week that Ferrell might not have been able to see beyond the bright headlights and spotlights of the police cruisers. But earlier Monday, CMPD homicide Detective Edwin Morales conceded in response to questions from the defense that there didn’t appear to be any lights shining on Ferrell’s face.

Again showing jurors the photograph of Ferrell walking toward officers, prosecutor Adren Harris asked Morales about Ferrell’s complexion – dark – and then took him through a series of quick questions.

“Is the shirt illuminated?”

“It appears to be.”

“Are the pants illuminated?

“They appear to be.”

“... the rock?”

“It appears to be.”

“How about the speed bump?”

“It appears to be.”

“How about that part of the door?”

“It appears to be.”

“You said Jonathan Ferrell had a dark complexion, is that correct?”

“Yes, sir.”

Presumably, the implication was that Ferrell’s face was illuminated, too, but because he had a dark complexion his face didn’t appear to be illuminated in the photograph.

12:30 p.m.: Defense builds case that Ferrell saw police

In a detailed cross-examination of a homicide detective, Kerrick’s defense attorneys built their point that Ferrell had to know he was dealing with police officers. (The prosecution has said that police did not identify themselves to Ferrell or issue any commands before firing at him with a Taser.)

Using a frame-by-frame, second-by-second breakdown of the police dashcam video, defense attorney George Laughrun showed images of Ferrell walking toward police officers, his hands gradually moving up toward his hips.

It appears as if he’s pulling up his pants or reaching for something, correct? Laughrun asked.

Yes, agreed CMPD Detective Edwin Morales.

Again and again, frame by frame, Laughrun asked whether there appear to be any lights shining into Ferrell’s face.

Again and again, the detective agreed that there weren’t.

An earlier witness suggested that Ferrell might have been blinded by lights from the patrol cars. Enhanced photographs from the dashcam video indicate there were no lights shining into Ferrell’s eyes until after he began to run.

The defense has pointed out that the police cars were clearly marked.

“Did you ever, ever – slow motion, full speed ... – ever see him have his hands up in the air?” Laughrun asked.

“No, sir, I did not,” Morales replied.

Morales also confirmed that Kerrick’s semi-automatic handgun was submitted to the crime lab for testing. Kerrick had said he felt “a tug” on his gun. There has been no testimony about Ferrell’s DNA being found on the gun, but defense attorney Michael Greene said in his opening statement that it was.

11:05 a.m.: Why didn’t Ferrell use his cellphone?

Kerrick’s defense hinted at a question many people who are following the trial are asking: Why didn’t Ferrell use his cellphone?

Attorney George Laughrun showed CMPD Detective Edwin Morales a photograph of the floorboard of Ferrell’s car taken on the day he was shot. The cellphone is lying on the floor, surrounded by glass fragments.

“In plain view?” Laughrun asks.

“Yes,” Morales replies.

Laughrun also questioned Morales about whether investigators asked the medical examiner about the effect the car wreck may have had on Ferrell, and Morales confirmed that they did. He confirmed that they also talked with the medical examiner about bath salts – a term used to describe certain drugs.

The police officers at the scene described Ferrell as acting bizarrely on the night he was killed.

10:20 a.m.: ‘He was coming right toward me’

Asked why he shot Jonathan Ferrell, Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick told investigators he feared that if he didn’t shoot, Ferrell would take his firearm.

“He’s coming toward me in a deadly force situation,” Kerrick said on a video recorded several hours after the 2013 shooting and played in court Monday. “He’s coming at me. I had a gun drawn on him and he didn’t care. He didn’t care.”

Kerrick said the first couple of shots “did not faze him at all.”

Kerrick wept at times as he described the encounter, pausing at times to compose himself.

Asked by an investigator whether he considered re-holstering his gun at any time, Kerrick said he didn’t have time.

“Officer Little tased him,” Kerrick said. “He didn’t pause. He didn’t flinch ... He came straight toward me.”

Kerrick said that based on his training and experience, if one officer draws a Taser, the second officer draws his gun.

Kerrick said he back-pedaled and fell to the ground. Ferrell was on his feet and legs. At some point, Kerrick said, he got hit in the mouth. “He’s still trying to crawl and I’m still saying, ‘Don’t move. Don’t move.’”

At one point, he said, he felt a jerk on his gun.

With the recorded interview over, an investigator showed Kerrick’s uniform, boots and badge to the jury.

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.

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 reports from the first week of Kerrick’s trial:

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.

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

Q&A at the end of the first week.

Elizabeth Leland: 704-358-5074, @elizabethleland

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