The ongoing trial of a police officer charged with shooting a Black man looking for help after an accident is seen as a black mark on Charlotte, N.C., according to NPR. The city long-known as an open-minded, progressive place which attracted bright, young people from across the country, now finds itself on the list of cities dealing with a fatal police shooting of a young Black man.
In 2013 Jonathan Ferrell, a former Florida A&M football player, was involved in an accident and walked to a nearby home to call for help. The homeowner, scared a Black man was on her porch, called the police, who ended up shooting Ferrell several times. During the trial of officer Randall Kerrick, who is facing voluntary manslaughter charges, police officers used familiar tactics to smear Ferrell. They claimed they had to shoot him because he possessed “super human strength.”
“On Wednesday, after members of the jury watched 36 minutes of dashcam footage captured from Kerrick’s car, Officer Adam Neal testified that he told investigators Ferrell appeared to be in a ‘zombie state’ and ‘amped up on the night of his death,’” reported ThinkProgress. “According to Neal, Kerrick fired four shots at Ferrell, who allegedly fell on top of the officer and attempted to crawl over him. Kerrick fired six more times, but the police say Ferrell kept crawling — at which point the cop fired two more shots.”
ThinkProgress said this is a common police tactic. It was the same excuse used by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who described Michael Brown as a “demon.”
“The claim of supernatural strength crops up again and again in police reports of altercations. In a case later settled for $2.5 million, officers shot a bipolar 38-year-old grad student, claiming the man seemed to have ‘super-human-type strength’ and was unaffected by beatings or pepper spray,” reported ThinkProgress.
ThinkProgress reports that another Black man, Dontre Hamilton, was shot 14 times by a police officer who claimed Hamilton seemed to be growing stronger with “super human strength,” and advanced through the bullets as if the officer were “shooting a BB gun.” Rodney King, whose beating sparked the L.A. Riots in the early 90s, was described as a “Tasmanian devil” who had “hulk-like strength.”
And just like in the Sandra Bland case, authorities released information indicating Ferrell was using drugs and alcohol, as is if that justified his shooting.
“The character assassination of people killed by police comes in other forms as well. After Ferrell was killed, sources revealed that he may have consumed drugs and alcohol before the crash (a toxicology report proved otherwise). Officials reported that Sandra Bland had traces of marijuana in her system,” reported ThinkProgress.
Journalist Mary C. Curtis said Charlotte might see itself part of the ‘New South,’ which has largely conquered the problem of race, but dig deeper and you’ll find racial tensions.
While the city was proud to elect Harvey Gantt, a Black mayor who won in a predominantly white city in the 1980s, Curtis said Charlotte’s leafy suburbs are still largely white—and there is a reason behind this.
“In the quiet, lovely Myers Park neighborhood I moved into, there weren’t many people who looked like me, a legacy that could be explained in some deeds with restrictive covenants, now unenforceable, that limited home ownership to those of the ‘Caucasian’ race,” said Curtis in a NPR article.
Curtis said the Ferrell case has caused the city to do much soul searching. However, the fact that a white homeowner would call the police because a Black man was knocking on her door shows Charlotte still has some work to do in racial progress.
“Jonathan Ferrell worked two jobs, planned to return to college and marry the fiancée he followed to our city. He must have thought he was in that new Charlotte, the one we brag about, where a Black man looking for help at a stranger’s door would get the benefit of the doubt,” Curtis said. “As much as I value the new openness brought on by Ferrell’s death, I only wish he had knocked on my door.”