Capt. Mike Campagna says Randall Kerrick's use of deadly force wasn't justified. cwootson@charlotteobserver.com
Capt. Mike Campagna says Randall Kerrick's use of deadly force wasn't justified. cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

Crime

Live updates: Was Kerrick given conflicting training?

By Elizabeth Leland and Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

eleland@charlotteobserver.com

August 11, 2015 10:36 AM

This is 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.

(READ: Full transcript of CMPD interview with Kerrick in 2013, a few hours after the shooting.)

5:15 p.m.: Past incident raises questions about Kerrick’s training

Out of the jury's presence, the judge reviewed evidence that after a 2012 incident Kerrick was told to draw his gun if another officer draws his Taser.

Prosecutors sought to block the testimony as confusing and misleading. Though Judge Robert Ervin didn't issue a ruling, his comments suggested that he would allow Kerrick's fellow officers to testify about the incident.

C.T. Thompson told the judge, after jurors left for the day, that he and Kerrick responded to a suspicious vehicle call in 2012. They thought the suspect was armed. Both officers drew their Tasers.

Afterward, a lieutenant counseled them that if one officer draws his Taser, the second officer should draw his gun.

That contradicts earlier testimony by Capt. Mike Campagna who said CMPD does not teach officers to do that. Kerrick, however, told investigators a few hours after he shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell that he was trained to pull his gun if another officer pulled his Taser.

4:45 p.m.: Kerrick’s scores on performance tests revealed

After six days of the prosecution presenting its case against Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick, defense attorneys began their side of the case Tuesday by trying to paint a more positive image of him.

First up on the witness stand for the defense was a psychology professor who testified that in pre-employment testing Kerrick scored high for a public safety position. The test found that he was “somewhat passive” but not enough to “prevent normal aggression” if warranted.

Next up was a supervisor from Animal Care & Control, where Kerrick worked before becoming a police officer. The supervisor read from an evaluation that said, in part, Kerrick was non-aggressive and performed effectively under stress.

“Were you sad when he left?” defense attorney George Laughrun asked.

“I was,” testified Tracey Kirchhofer of Animal Care & Control.

Prosecutor Adren Harris came back with just one more question for Kirchhofer: “Were you present on Sept. 13, 2013, when the defendant was responding to the Reedy Creek area?”

“I was not,” Kirchhofer replied.

Also testifying was Sgt. Kenneth Jones of CMPD’s Hickory Grove Division, where Kerrick was assigned. Jones said Kerrick scored in “the middle ground” in a review of his performance while training on patrol with another officer.

“He thinks clearly and weighs alternatives and consequences,” Jones wrote.

In answer to questions from prosecutor Steven Arbogast, Jones testified that Kerrick’s performance in certain areas was rated as “achieved” – not “exceeds” or “exceptional.”

In a review of Kerrick’s first year patrolling on his own, however, another sergeant testified that Kerrick got an “exceeds” rating – comparable to a grade of “B.” He said Kerrick performs well under stress and does not overreact.

3:15: State rests; defense calls first witness

The defense called its first witness Tuesday afternoon after the state rested its case. David McCord is a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University.

Earlier, Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin denied a defense motion to dismiss the voluntary manslaughter charge against Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick on grounds of insufficient evidence.

“I assume the defense has evidence to present?” Ervin asked.

“You think?” defense attorney George Laughrun replied.

In his cross-examination Tuesday, Laughrun enlivened what has been a sometimes-tedious trial with references to Watergate, the singer Shakira, the Michelin Man and Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly.

“You can sum up what an officer knows as basically what he knows and when did he know it?” Laughrun asked Capt. Mike Campagna, quoting the famous line from the 1970s about then-President Nixon.

“Yes, sir,” Campagna replied.

When Kerrick arrived at the Bradfield Farms neighborhood, he knew that Jonathan Ferrell was a burglary suspect. Campagna agreed in answer to Laughrun’s questions that Kerrick did not know Ferrell had argued with his fiancee that day, had been out drinking or had wrecked his car.

In response to another question, Campagna said that use of force is suspect-driven.

Referring to police officers, Laughrun asked: “They have a right to act accordingly to how the suspect acts, is that correct?”

“Yes.”

Campagna described shrimping – where an officer, who is on the ground, uses his hips to get away from a suspect. In a 2013 interview with CMPD investigators, Kerrick said that’s what he did when Ferrell was on top of him.

Laughrun pointed out dirt marks on the back of Kerrick’s uniform and belt, then asked, using the Shakira lyric.

“Hips don’t lie?”

“Yes,” Campagna agreed.

12:45 p.m.: Questions involve how Kerrick was trained

In a training video Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick watched a month before he shot Jonathan Ferrell, the trainer advises that if one officer “goes Taser,” then the second officer “goes lethal.”

Kerrick told investigators he was trained to pull his gun after another officer pulled a Taser. But on Monday morning, Capt. Mike Campagna testified that CMPD policy does not teach that.

In his cross-examination, defense attorney George Laughrun noted that the training video does not agree with Campagna.

Before court recessed for lunch, Laughrun methodically tried to pick apart Campagna’s earlier testimony. Campagna had said one option for an officer is to get out of the way if a suspect rushes toward him. Laughrun held up an aerial view of the shooting scene and implied that Kerrick had indeed changed directions.

12 p.m.: Expert says Kerrick should have used ‘non-deadly force’

Based on Ferrell’s actions, Kerrick should have retaliated with non-deadly force, a police captain testified.

“Was shooting Jonathan consistent with law enforcement training and CMPD policy?” prosecutor Teresa Postell asked Capt. Mike Campagna.

“It was not,” Campagna replied.

Campagna said Kerrick should have holstered his weapon because he was faced with “active aggression” – not “aggravated active aggression.” That would have freed both of Kerrick’s hands to get Ferrell under control and allow Kerrick to use his baton, pepper spray or Taser instead.

Officers are taught to create distance between themselves and a person, Campagna said. “If someone is running straight at you ... we tell officers to make a 90-degree turn, left or right, to get off the train tracks is the term we use.”

Kerrick told investigators Ferrell ran straight at him.

Also this: “If someone was rapidly approaching me, I would want to pull my gun back to protect it,” Campagna said.

Campagna said he based his conclusions on what the officers knew when they encountered Ferrell, their actions, Ferrell’s actions and how all that lined up with CMPD’s training and policy. Among things he considered was Ferrell’s hiking up his pants and suddenly moving toward Kerrick.

11:15 a.m.: Kerrick was ‘justified’ in drawing his gun

CMPD Capt. Mike Campagna testified Tuesday that Kerrick was justified in drawing his gun – but not because Officer Thornell Little had drawn his Taser.

Campagna said that based on the type of 911 call, CMPD policy would allow for an officer to pull his firearm. He said, however, that CMPD policy does not state that if one officer pulls his Taser, the other should pull his gun – the rationale Kerrick gave for drawing out his .40 caliber Smith & Wesson.

Campagna testified that the red targeting dots of Little’s Taser appeared on Ferrell’s chest and Ferrell began to run. Little then fired his Taser.

Campagna has not been asked whether Kerrick was justified under CMPD policy in firing any shots. Court recessed for a break around 11:15 a.m.

10:25 a.m. Could gun have hit Kerrick in cheek?

Prosecutor Teresa Postell raised the possibility in court Tuesday that Kerrick’s cheek could have been injured when his gun recoiled.

“Could the recoil hit the officer somewhere on his body or his face?” Postell asked Capt. Mike Campagna.

“Yes, because ... you have play in the weapon when it moves,” Campagna said. “It is possible.”

Kerrick told investigators he got hit in the face at some point during his confrontation with Ferrell, but did not know when.

The question-and-answer between the prosecutor and the captain came as Campagna outlined the type of training all officers receive – Kerrick in particular.

An officer, confronted with a situation, must choose from a continuum of force, Campagna testified – from talking with the person or fighting with the person to using intermediate weapons (baton, pepper spray, a Taser) to using a gun.

On the lower end of the continuum of force, Campagna said, officers are taught to use pressure points and “take-downs” with their legs to get a person to comply. They are taught to punch and kick as a protective measure, or to get people under control.

“Why do you teach officers how to fight?” prosecutor Teresa Postell asked.

“... to protect themselves or protect someone else,” Campagna answered.

Officers are also taught how to maintain control of their guns, he said. They are taught to fire it only when confronted with “aggravated active aggression” – in other words, when the suspect’s actions threaten death or serious personal injury.

To help officers react appropriately under stress, Campagna said, they are put in a room with flashing lights and loud music. Four other people are in the room and the officer does not know who the suspect is until the person suddenly attacks.

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.

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. |

To read reports from the second week of Kerrick’s trial:

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

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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