by: Mark Becker Updated:MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. —
Mecklenburg County’s district attorney announced Thursday that he has asked North Carolina’s top prosecutor to take over the case against the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer now charged with shooting and killing an unarmed man.
According to the statement district attorney, Andrew Murray, asked the state to handle the case in order to ensure that the public has confidence in the fairness of the judicial process.
In this case, it’s all about appearances.
Before he became district attorney, Murray was a partner with George Laughrun and Michael Greene, the two attorneys representing officer Kerrick.
In the statement, the district attorney’s office said there is no actual conflict of interest but it is critical that the family of the victim, the defendant, the police department and the community have confidence that the case is handled objectively.
The attorney general’s office said the SBI will do an independence investigation of the shooting.
Attorney General Roy Cooper told Channel 9 via Skype they are prepared to handle the case.
911 call: Officer involved shooting
One of the key pieces of evidence in the case is the dashcam video that captured the events leading up to the shooting.
“There were absolutely no commands to “stop, stop or I will shoot. Stop, Charlotte Police Department. Who are you? What are you doing?” Ferrell’s family’s attorney told Channel 9 over the phone.
“I’ll tell you what I didn’t hear, I didn’t hear, ‘Stop.’ I didn’t hear, ‘Freeze.’ I didn’t hear, ‘Police,’” Chestnut said.
On Tuesday, Chestnut was adamant that he did not hear police warning Ferrell before Kerrick began shooting, but after seeing the video for the first time Wednesday, Kerrick’s attorney took issue with that.
“He was given at least three verbal commands to, “Get on the ground. Get on the ground. He did not,” Laughrun said.
On the phone Thursday, Chestnut told Channel 9 he may have heard the command for Ferrell to get on the ground, but it came too late for him to react.
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“I am confident that Jonathon would not have had sufficient time to comply with the command to get on the ground between then and the shots ringing out,” Chestnut said.
Laughrun also said Ferrell’s hands were not always up in the air where officers could see them.
“You could see one of his hands behind his back, concealed as he advanced on the officers,” Laughrun said.
Chestnut told Channel 9 they may not have been up in the air, but they were out front and officers could clearly tell he didn’t have any weapons.
“He was moving forward, but not in a way that was a threat to their life,” Chestnut said.
Laughrun said that once all of the evidence is on the table, Kerrick’s actions will be justified.
The images captured by the police dashcam may be the most critical evidence in the case.
Channel 9 has asked police if they will release that video, but at this point they don’t have any plans to do so.
Sources: Ferrell was at Hickory Tavern prior to crash, shooting
A spokesman for Hickory Tavern restaurant confirmed police talked to staff at the Harris Boulevard location about what Jon Ferrell was doing hours before he was shot.
Sources told Channel 9 Wednesday detectives spoke to people who were with Ferrell, and they said he had been drinking and using marijuana before he crashed his car.
Chestnut said Ferrell's family's understanding is that he didn't use drugs or really drink alcohol.
Channel 9 has not had the benefit of interviewing the witnesses that police interviewed.
Chestnut said that even if Ferrell was using drugs or alcohol, it doesn't explain why he was shot.
A full toxicology report isn't expected for several weeks.
Meanwhile, UNC-Charlotte law professor Kathleen Nicolaides weighed in Thursday on the fact there are three versions of what is on the dashcam video from Saturday morning: one from Laughrun, one from Chestnut and another from CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe.
She said those accounts can give the public information on what may have happened, but they are not evidence.
"What we want to do is put that video in context trough witness testimony, the expert testimony, ballistics, other experts may testify in the case," said Nicolaides.
On Monday, Nicolaides told Channel 9, based on news reports, she thought voluntary manslaughter was the right charge.
She now said the state will continue to look at the evidence and decide if that should stick or if involuntary manslaughter would be more appropriate.
For complete coverage on the CMPD officer involved shooting case click here.