National News

AG: No retrial of Charlotte officer in fatal shooting

Posted August 28, 2015 10:52 a.m. EDT
Updated August 28, 2015 11:55 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Attorney General's Office will not retry a white Charlotte police officer whose voluntary manslaughter trial in the death of a black man ended with a hung jury last week, officials said Friday.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Robert Montgomery said in a letter to Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray that charges against Officer Randall Kerrick would be dismissed. The Attorney General's Office handled the prosecution to avoid any conflict of interest for Mecklenburg County prosecutors.

Kerrick was charged in the shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell in September 2013. It happened as Kerrick and two other officers responded to a breaking and entering call. Ferrell had been in a car accident and was apparently seeking help at the home.

Ferrell wasn't armed, but Kerrick said that Ferrell charged at him and that he shot in self-defense.

After three weeks of testimony and four days of deliberations, the jury couldn't overcome its 8-4 deadlock in favor of acquittal, leading Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin to declare the mistrial.

"In consideration of the jurors' comments, the evidence available to the State, and our background in criminal trials, it is our prosecutors' unanimous belief a retrial will not yield a different result," Montgomery wrote in the letter. Our prosecutors believe they were able to introduce the relevant evidence and examine the witnesses, including the defendant, appropriately and that the jury fully considered the details of the case. However, meeting the standard of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt could not be achieved."

Attorney General Roy Cooper called Ferrell's death a tragedy that shouldn't have happened, and he said it provides evidence that law enforcement officers need more training in the use of lethal force.

"We as a state need to learn from this tragedy," Cooper said at a Friday afternoon news conference. "More consistent and better training for our law enforcement officers can save lives, both the lives of officers and the lives of citizens they are charged to protect and serve."

He urged state lawmakers to pass pending legislation that would provide more funding for training, adding that he believes Kerrick acted outside of his training in shooting Ferrell.

Kerrick is suspended without pay from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. The department has launched an internal investigation to determine if he violated any policies or procedures on the night Ferrell was killed.

The Fraternal Order of Police announced it had collected 8,000 signatures on a petition in support of Kerrick, adding that the organization would back him if he chooses to try to regain his job.

Cooper said he wouldn't second-guess how the prosecutors in his office handled the case, saying he knows they worked hard for a conviction.

"It was the right thing to do to bring this case to a jury and seek a conviction, but now we need to listen to what the jury said," he said, adding that prosecutors spoke with Ferrell's mother before announcing their decision to drop the charges against Kerrick.

Protests were staged around Charlotte following the mistrial last week, but little unrest was seen around the city Friday evening. State and local officials urged people to remain calm.