Jury selection has finally begun in the trial of a North Carolina police officer who is accused of fatally shooting an unarmed black man back in 2013. But what exactly happened to Jonathan Ferrell, a former Florida A&M University football player who was shot 10 times during a confrontation with police? The officer on trial, Randall Kerrick, could face up to 11 years in prison if convicted of voluntary manslaughter.
Ferrell, who was 24 at the time, drove off the road late at night after driving a friend home and crashed his car into some nearby trees. According to NBC News, Ferrell crawled out of his back window and lost his keys, phone, and shoes in the process as he sought help nearby. When Ferrell knocked on the door of a neighboring house, instead of providing help, the woman inside called 911 to report a possible break-in.
Three police officers, including Kerrick, arrived at the scene and claimed Ferrell was uncooperative and charged at them. Of the three officers, Kerrick was the only one who pulled his weapon and fired 12 rounds, 10 of which hit Ferrell. According to NBC News, Kerrick's defense team will argue the officer acted in self-defense and that Ferrell was intoxicated and high.
Despite the defenses' claims, Ferrell's body was found unarmed. According to MSNBC, two separate toxicology reports indicated there were no drugs in Ferrell's system and his blood-alcohol level was under the legal limit. The autopsy also indicated the majority of the bullets hit Ferrell at a downward angle. According to MSNBC, this suggests Ferrell may have been on his knees.
The ensuing trial is unlikely to be a pleasant one, as Kerrick's defense is prepared for a long battle. He almost evaded indictment once in 2014, when the grand jury decided not to indict him on manslaughter charges. However, the prosecution resubmitted the case on the grounds that a full grand jury wasn't present. They were allowed to resubmit, and the second jury indicted Kerrick.
There is also reportedly a police dash cam recording of the shooting, but it has not been issued to the public yet. According to those who have seen the video, such as Ferrell's fiancée Caché Heidel, the recording shows Kerrick issuing a brief warning to Ferrell before opening fire. "Nothing is said, and then by the time something is said, there's not a reasonable amount of time for a normal human being to react to it," Heidel told The Charlotte Observer.
The trial comes on the heels of a $2.25 million settlement the city of Charlotte reached with the Ferrell family in May regarding a wrongful death lawsuit. "While we realize that money is an inadequate means of compensating Mr. Ferrell’s family, we feel that this was a fair and equitable settlement," said city attorney Bob Hagemann in a press conference soon after.
The settlement was only with the city of Charlotte and is not an admission of guilt on the behalf of Kerrick. Ferrell's family is still seeking justice through the court of law. According to NBC News, Ferrell's mother Georgia told reporters she plans to hug Kerrick and tell him that she "forgives him, but he must be punished."