CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The state has rested its case against the police officer accused of fatally shooting an unarmed man in 2013.
The last witness was Captain Mike Campagna, who said Tuesday that Officer Randal "Wes" Kerrick was not in compliance with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Dept. policy when he shot Jonathan Ferrell. However, Campagna said department policy does support Kerrick's initial decision to draw his weapon.
Retired prosecutor Steve Ward, who now teaches criminal justice at Belmont Abbey College, said the testimony was a mixed message for the jury. "Some
of the training seems to be inconsistent; that you are allowed to draw a weapon and point it at someone who is unarmed, but you're not allowed to shoot them," said Ward.
Campagna, a certified police instructor, testified that non-lethal force should have been used in the encounter with Ferrell and that Kerrick should have switched or "transitioned down" to a non-lethal force option, like his stun gun or baton.
Defense attorney George Laughrun said during a seven second encounter, Kerrick had no time to change his tactics.
"Officers are trained to only use their firearms when they face aggravated active aggression," Campagna said. He described 'aggravated active aggression' as an encounter where an officer could be seriously injured or killed.
Campagna said it was his opinion that Kerrick faced "active aggression" but not "aggravated active aggression."
Campagna also answered questions Tuesday about the different types of force that officers are trained to use, including fighting tactics, stun gun, and their baton.
The defense raised another inconsistency about CMPD training compared to policy. Laughrun said Kerrick received a refresher course on simulated firearms training five weeks before the shooting. The instructor told officer that if another officer draws his stun gun, the partnering officer should draw his firearm as back up.
"That sound like what Officer Kerrick was doing?" Laughrun asked. Campagna responded that Kerrick's action did provide cover for his fellow officer, whose stun gun was deployed and missed.
Campagna also admitted on the stand that the training officer's instructions to use a firearm as backup went against department policy.
"That's the problem. The jury's going to see this as a mixed message and they're not going to know what to do," said Ward.
The State never called any top CMPD brass to testify about the decision to charge Kerrick, other than Campagna, who reviewed the case from a training standpoint.
The State also never called Officer Thornell Little, who was the first officer on scene to see Ferrell. Dashcam video shows Little deployed his stun gun and missed, as Ferrell started running toward Kerrick.
The defense began their side of presenting evidence by starting with a psychologist who reviewed Kerrick's hiring. Dr. David McCord, psychology professor at Western North Carolina University said Kerrick presented no character flaws in his review. McCord described the officer as "stable, confident" and "resilient, cheerful and relaxed." He said Kerrick could be passive, but not to an extreme and exhibited potential leadership qualities.
Two supervisors at CMPD Animal Care and Control, and a sergeant at the Hickory Grove Division also testified that Kerrick was an exemplary employee.
Monday, Campagna began his testimony about how 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, they 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.
Officer Kerrick is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell.