Dashcam video and officer's testimony paint picture of events leading to Kerrick trial
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - For the first time since the 2013 shooting, the dashcam video of a deadly officer involving shooting in Charlotte has been seen by the public.
The video was shown in court Wednesday afternoon during the trial of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer Randall "Wes" Kerrick, who officials say shot Jonathan Ferrell ten times.
Ferrell, 24, died on September 14, 2013 after an encounter with police in the Bradfield Farms neighborhood in east Mecklenburg.
The video, which is more than 36 minutes long, shows police encountering Ferrell on the night of the shooting.
In the video, Ferrell walks slowly toward police cars then suddenly sprints forward after a CMPD officer shines a red beam from a stun gun on his chest. Within a four-second time span, a stun gun piece flies through the air, an officer yells "get down" and four shots are fired.
The yelling and shots happen off camera. A volley of gun shots erupts. Someone yells, "Shots fired! Shots fired!" Then, "Don't move."
As the dashcam played, Kerrick could be seen crying in the courtroom. His sister, also a CMPD officer, had tears coming down her face. On the opposite side of the courtroom, the Ferrell family watched and kept their composure.
Members of the jury were glued to their individual monitors as the tape played.
Retired Mecklenburg County prosecutor Steve Ward said the video helps both the prosecution and the defense.
"For the prosecution, you can hear on the video. You can't see what's transpiring," Ward said. "You can hear all the shots and there is pausing between shots. So it paints the picture of excessive force."
And, for Officer Kerrick - who says he was acting in self defense - Ward said the video proves a point.
"Because it doesn't show a calm Jonathan Ferrell walking into them. It shows a Jonathan Ferrell charging the police as they're ordering him to get on the ground."
The dramatic footage begins around 2:38 a.m. as Officer Adam Neal responds to a 911 call about a possible break-in attempt. Neal speeds to the scene, siren blaring, lights flashing. About seven minutes into the video, he turns onto Reedy Creek Road.
By then, on the dark road, Neal has silenced his siren and lights. He pulls up behind another patrol car. Kerrick can be seen getting into the driver's seat, then driving onto another street leading to the neighborhood pool. He stops, Neal follows behind, dash-cam rolling.
From the left of the video frame walks Ferrell. He doesn't't look to be in a hurry. His arms dangle at his side, hands out of his pocket.
When he gets close to the squad cars, he suddenly runs forward. Twelve shots follow.
Ward told WBTV he believes the video is an important piece of evidence about which jurors will have long discussions once deliberations begin.
"I think this is going to cause some real strenuous discussions in the jury room when they end up going back and deliberating because this video is absolutely subject to two different interpretations," he said.
While the video is critical because it paints the picture of how the shooting began, Ward said the testimony of officers who witnessed the shooting will be just as crucial.
"They're the ones who then will fill in what happened once Ferrell left the camera range," he said.
Officer Adam Neal, who was driving the cruiser that captured the scene, told jurors he saw on Ferrell's clothing some red dots from the stun gun that was aimed at him.
"At this point I'm thinking, since he ran through that Taser, we're getting ready to get into a fight," Officer Neal said.
Officer Neal said he didn't fire his weapon or use his taser because he was expecting a fight. He testified that when he saw Ferrell run, he then started to run after him. Neal said that by the time he reached the other side of his cruiser, he heard shots. And saw Ferrell and Kerrick on the ground.
"Officer Kerrick – he was on his buttocks with his weapon in his hand. And Jonathan was at the bottom – the lower part of Officer Kerrick's legs and feet," Neal said, then added that he saw Kerrick had one of his legs extended and he was using the other to push off.
He said Ferrell was crawling up on Kerrick.
"At this point Jonathan – he stopped pulling," Officer Neal said. "That pause – that's when shots stopped and he started again. He started crawling up on Officer Kerrick again."
He said Kerrick fired more rounds. Ferrell stopped moving.
During cross examination, the defense had Neal step down from the witness stand and demonstrate to the jury where he was in relation to where Kerrick was - while Kerrick was on the ground. He also showed how Kerrick was trying to back away.
Attorney Michael Greene asked Officer Neal what would have happened had he fired while Kerrick was on the ground with Ferrell – the officer said he likely would have hit Kerrick.
When court recessed Wednesday afternoon, Neal was still on the stand. He most likely will resume his testimony Thursday.
Copyright 2015 WBTV. The Charlotte Observer contributed to this report. All rights reserved.