This weekend, a black man got into a car accident, climbed out of the wreckage through the back window of his vehicle, went looking for help, and was shot to death by the police. I should also mention that the black guy was unarmed.
In a surprise twist, the police officer has been charged with voluntary manslaughter. I’m sure that the people who think it’s okay when black people get shot to death will find a way to defend the officer, and they’ll deny that race played a role in the shooting. But I’d like to think that even the people who don’t think this guy was killed because he was black can at least agree that the police can’t be allowed to gun people down in this fashion.
The police are supposed to protect and serve, not shoot to kill…
Here’s the situation, as reported by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Rodney Monroe in the Charlotte Observer:
[Jonathan A.] Ferrell was driving a vehicle that crashed into the woods near Reedy Creek Road in northeast Charlotte.
Monroe called the accident severe, adding that Ferrell would have been forced to climb out of the back window to get out. Monroe didn’t know the cause of the crash, and he didn’t say whether Ferrell had injuries from it.
Ferrell apparently walked to the nearest house, about a half-mile from the accident, and was “banging on the door viciously,” Monroe said. The woman who lives there thought the man at her door was her husband coming home late from work.
But when she saw Ferrell instead, she shut the door and called police because she thought he was trying to rob her.
Officers received a call shortly after 2:30 a.m. about an attempted break-in at a residence in the 7500 block of Reedy Creek Road.
The three officers from the Hickory Grove division who responded to the scene came across a man matching the description of the possible suspect, and they surrounded him. The man “immediately charged” at the police, Monroe said.
One officer attempted to Tase Ferrell, but apparently he missed. A second officer, Randall Kerrick, then shot at Ferrell, hitting him multiple times, and killing him.
I’m not going to jump up and down on the woman in the house. I mean, she probably isn’t getting a humanitarian award, but she was put in a tough spot. It’s late at night, her husband isn’t home, a stranger is at her door claiming that he’s been in a car accident and needs help, but she has no way of knowing that for sure. I’d like to think that I could distinguish between intruder and car accident victim, but whatever. The way people are in this country, I’m just happy the lady didn’t pull out a shotgun and blow Ferrell away. It seems to me that she did the right thing by calling 911. Law enforcement is supposed to be able to distinguish friend or foe in this situation.
I’m saving my “this racism is killing me inside” outrage for the cops, of course, but also for Ferrell’s former football coach. Ferrell used to play at Florida A&M, and so Deadspin got a reaction from his former coach, Earl Holmes:
“I was saddened when they told me.” Holmes said. “They told me he was murdered. I said, ‘What? Murder? That doesn’t sound like him. Not the Jonathan I remembered.’ The Jonathan I remembered was a soft-spoken kid, quiet and to himself.”
Come on, man. Only boisterous, loud-mouth black people get murdered? Holmes is black, by the way. And the statement reminds me that the fundamental problem here is that a lot of people — black and white people — think that there is some “way of acting” that will keep you from getting racially profiled to death. I can hear the apologists now: Maybe if he had politely “knocked” on the door, instead of “banging” on it “viciously.” Maybe if he had calmly “walked” towards the officers instead of “immediately charging” them. Maybe if he had just stayed in his vehicle screaming, “Oh Lawd, massa I needs some hep,” then this white cop wouldn’t have had to shoot him to death.
I’m not sure what Randall Kerrick’s defense will be, and I’m not sure how many people will buy it. But regardless of how the legal process plays out, I’m just don’t know what black people are supposed to do to protect themselves from police officers.
CMPD officer charged in fatal shooting [Charlotte Observer]
Unarmed Former Florida A&M Player Shot Dead By Police [Deadspin]