Kerrick trial puts CMPD leadership on the stand

Kerrick trial puts CMPD leadership on the stand

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Jurors in the voluntary manslaughter trial of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer started their day by watching the police interview tape of Officer Randall "Wes" Kerrick before he was criminally charged.

Kerrick is accused of using excessive force when he shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell almost two years ago. Kerrick's defense team says the shooting was self-defense and justified.

Jurors ended their day with a CMPD captain on testifying about the department's use of force policy and training.

Now comes the task of state prosecutors to connect the dots between Kerrick's actions September 14, 2013 and department policy.

Captain Michael Campagna helped bring Tasers to the department several years ago and has taught use of force classes at the training academy.

He told the jury that he reviewed the Kerrick case, including the 911 call, officer statements, scene, and transcripts. Testimony ended for the day before Campagna was asked about his opinion on whether Kerrick violated policy.

Dashcam video released last week shows Ferrell running out of frame as Officer Thornell Little activates his Taser and puts a red beam target on Ferrell's chest. Within four seconds, Officer Kerrick fires four shots as Ferrell charges toward him. Another eight shots are fired within a few seconds.

The whole encounter from Officer Little firing his taser to Kerrick's final 12th shot is less than 11 seconds.

Police records show Officer Kerrick received training in use of force and use of deadly force.

Captain Campagna, a certified police instructor, testified that recruits are taught when to use force or deadly force. Sworn officers also receive continuing education.

According to Capt. Campagna, the law identifies four areas for deadly force.

He said "the first being to defend yourself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force. There is to prevent the escape of someone who is using a weapon to commit their escape. There is also the situation where if a person is not apprehended immediately, there are imminent to go out and commit - to inflict death or serious body injury upon another person. The last one is to prevent the escape of a person from custody who has been incarcerated due to a felony."

During his recorded police interview, Kerrick told detectives that he felt Ferrell was reaching for his gun.

The prosecutor asked Capt Campagna "do you learn how to use chemical sprays? How to maintain control of their firearms, or take away a weapon from a person if they had one?" Campagna responded yes.

The 23-year veteran of the department told jurors that officers are taught to "evaluate situations, make use of force decisions, then execute those use of force decisions when taking people into custody. That includes protecting themselves from assault and harm in the process of making an arrest."

Campagna said officers are taught different options - such as using their taser, baton, or flashlight to bring someone under control. Officers also learn how to grab hold of a person and twisting him or her to the ground. "It may be pressure points - touching nerve centers to get pain compliance," Campagna testified.

He said police also are taught how to use their knees, elbows and hands to protect themselves or get a person under control.

Sgt C.R. Williams, a recruit training sergeant at CMPD's Police Academy, told jurors that Kerrick was to update on his training, including use of force training. He said officers are required to qualify annually to use their firearms.

According to Sgt Williams, the department directives state that the dash cam should be operating until the event ends. Kerrick told police his recording device was turned off before he arrived at the scene.

Seconds of the beginning of the incident were captured by the dash camera in the cruiser of a third officer who responded to the call.

Earlier Monday, defense attorney George Laughrun took apart the dashcam video frame by frame with homicide detective Edwin Morales on the stand.

Laughrun asked about Morales about Ferrell's change in posture, approach and likelihood that he could see the CMPD logos on the patrol the cars.

There were two dozen freeze frames leading up to this question:

"Did you ever see if he had his hands up in the air?" Laughrun asked. "No, I did not," Morales responded.

In his police interview, Kerrick can be seen and heard describing the encounter to Morales and a CMPD homicide sergeant.

"He lunges at me, gets me over here by my feet. I felt a jerk on my gun," said Kerrick.

He demonstrated standing up, and on the ground how the two men were positioned. At one point, Kerrick is asked what was going through his head when he decided to shoot.

"I felt like if I did not shoot at him, he was acting like he was going to cause me harm," said Kerrick during the police interview. "I felt like he would take my firearm away from me. He was close enough to do it," he said.

Kerrick was interviewed nearly four hours after Ferrell died. The interview ended with Detective Morales taking Kerrick's service weapon.

Kerrick left the interrogation room with his badge on, but he did not have much longer to wear it. Kerrick was charged later that night with voluntary manslaughter.

Prosecutor Adren Harris also showed the jury Kerrick's uniform, boots and badge from that night. Kerrick's family seemed moved by the display of items symbolic of his policing career.

Defense attorney Laughrun used the items on cross examination to point out dirt on the uniform, which he said came from ground where the two men struggled.

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