Breaking News Emails
A judge in North Carolina on Friday declared a mistrial in a police officer's 2013 killing of unarmed former college football player Jonathan Ferrell.
That means that the voluntary manslaughter charge against Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Randall "Wes" Kerrick remains open.
Kerrick, 29, shot Ferrell, 24, in a confrontation following a traffic accident.
The jury of eight women and four men deliberated over four days, taking several votes but never coming close to a unanimous decision on Kerrick's fate. In its last vote on Friday afternoon, the jury was split, 8-4.
At around 4:15 p.m. ET. the jury foreman told Judge Richard C. Ervin that the panel was deadlocked. Ervin asked if it would help if they broke for the weekend and returned on Monday, but the jury, in a show of hands, indicated it could go no further.
As the courtroom emptied, Kerrick, who faced up to 11 years in prison, remained with his lawyers, looking relieved but unsmiling.
His fate still rests with prosecutors, who must decide whether to seek another trial.
Outside the courthouse, several protesters lay in the street, shouting "No justice, no peace" at members of Kerrick's family, The Associated Press reported.
The shooting unfolded on Sept. 14, 2013, after Ferrell, who'd once played defensive back for Florida A&M University, crawled from a wrecked car and staggered to a nearby house for help. A woman inside called 911 to report a possible break-in. Kerrick and two other officers with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department responded to the scene.
Police dashcam footage showed officers pointing Tasers at Ferrell, who then ran. Kerrick, who’d been an officer for three years, stood in his path. He shouted for Ferrell to get on the ground, then shot Ferrell 10 times. Kerrick said he feared Ferrell was going to hurt him when he opened fire.
Authorities charged Kerrick with manslaughter hours after the shooting.
The officer is white and the victim was black, but his killing did not draw the public reaction that has followed similar deaths in recent months. But as a national movement grew around protests of police use of force, the case drew more attention.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said there was probable cause to charge Kerrick, but he respected the trial's outcome. "We will learn from this tragic event and move forward," he said in a statement.
Kerrick’s jury was racially diverse: seven white members, three blacks and two Latinos.
The officer’s defense attorney argued at the trial that dents on the home’s door indicated that Ferrell was attempting to force his way into the house, and stressed that he could have injured the officers even though he was not armed.
But prosecutors said Ferrell wasn’t a threat, and argued that the defense was trying to "demonize" him. They said he did not approach the officers in an aggressive manner, and even if Kerrick felt threatened, he should have used his Taser or fought him off.
Charlotte Mayor Daniel Clodfelter called said that the work to improve relations between the public and the police must continue.
"Regardless of what may happen now with respect to the pending charges against Officer Kerrick, we must continue to ask ourselves what we can do, what we must do to lessen our fear of each other, our misunderstanding of each other — fear and misunderstanding that can too often escalate when we find ourselves in tense or unfamiliar situations," he said.