On Sept. 14, 2013, a life was taken, and another life forever changed. The violent way Jonathan Ferrell died on a Saturday night left a mother in agony and a brother torn.
The Ferrell family memorializes Jonathan’s passing, 6 years ago today.
At around 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 14, 2013, Jonathan Ferrell had been involved in a car accident and walked to the nearest home for help. The woman living in the home was alarmed and dialed the police.
Soon after, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick and two other police officers arrived, Kerrick fired 12 rounds at Ferrell, hitting him 10 times, eight of them while he was on the ground.
That night, Jonathan took his last breath.
For Jonathan’s brother, Willie Ferrell, the world changed in a flash. The high-profile death of Jonathan left the family with emotional battles at every intersection.
“During that time my grieving was extremely tough. Especially staying firm for my family,” Willie said.
For nearly two years, the Ferrell family awaited what the final decision would be for Kerrick. He faced a voluntary manslaughter charge, and the family went to court every day of the trial. They called for peace after the judge declared a mistrial.
Following that mistrial, the attorney general dropped the charges against Kerrick. Without any further legal recourse, the family announced they would push for peace through the Justice for Jonathan Foundation.
While working through the loss, Willie’s strength came through the memories of his brother and their solid bond.
Willie said he has too many fond memories of his brother to recount, but said the brothers had a dream to play college football on the same team “no matter what,” Willie said.
The dream came true, and they both played college football at Florida Agriculture & Mechanical University.
“We loved every moment,” Willie said.
Special times together came following their games. They would simply sit on top their car, talk about football, laugh, smile and live their dream.
“The most meaningful moments after Jon’s death was just being loved and embraced by Charlotte and surrounding cities,” Willie said. “Making life-long friends in Charlotte. Gaining so many mothers, brothers and sisters who I speak to and visit every time I am in the city.”
Still, the passing of Jonathan has and will continue to impact Willie’s life, but he has found ways to embrace the reality of his brother’s unforeseen end.
“My life changed in so many ways. Me finding my way around life and not having a role model,” Willie said. “Making decisions on my own and not consulting with him for advice.”
However, Willie says the tragedy has also helped him look at life in many positive ways.
“His death made me a man and helped me find who I am, helped me stay calm but enjoy my life and the ones I spend my time with,” Willie said.
He said that he tries to emulate Jonathan’s life by being a giving and loving man, a peacemaker and a friend to anybody needing a listening ear.
A story of a white officer and a black victim propelled this story to national news by some, fanning flames of racism, but Jonathan Ferrell's family made it clear that it is not an issue of race, but an issue of violence.
Ferrell's mother offered a powerful message to police.
"You took a piece out of my heart that can never be put back, but I do forgive you. I truly forgive you," said Georgia Ferrell.
While the years have passed, Willie remains an advocate for healthy conversations and continues to uplift children in his community of Tallahassee, Florida.
However, Willie believes there is still a long way to go to heal the country when it comes to equality and police-community relations. He says more positive interactions between police, children and community is a way to begin but consistency is key.
The love Willie has for his brother has not diminished. He says this is all part of his journey.
If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, public affairs manager at WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.
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