It was about 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning when Sarah McCartney heard a banging at her front door. The young mother, alone with her 1-year-old son, rushed to the door thinking that something might have happened to her husband. But the man standing there wasn't her husband, but a young black man.
McCartney quickly shut the door and called 911 to report an attempted robbery.
"I need help. There's a guy breaking into my front door, he's trying to kick it down," McCartney is heard pleading through tears on a recording of the 911 call released by WCNC.com, an NBC affiliate in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday. She told the dispatcher that her husband works nights and that he has guns at home but that she couldn't find any.
"Oh my God," McCartney says over and over. "He's in the front yard yelling."
"I need help," she said, crying.
When McCartney saw the police outside of her home, she's heard on the 911 tape saying, “Oh, please let them get him.”
Jonathan Ferrell, 24, was killed by police in a bizarre series of events that began with a car crash along a rural stretch of road near McCartney's home, and ended not long after he dragged himself from the wreckage and found himself on her doorstep seeking help.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say that three officers responding to McCartney's 911 call arrived at her home and found Ferrell nearby. When Ferrell saw the officers he advanced or ran toward them, police say, and one of the officers shot him with a Taser. When that didn’t stop him, Officer Randall Kerrick pulled out his gun and fired 12 shots at Ferrell, hitting him with 10.
Police say that Ferrell was unarmed at the time of the shooting and was no robber at all--just someone looking for help at the the first house he saw.
Kerrick, 27, has been charged with voluntary manslaughter and was arraigned on Tuesday. Kerrick’s defense attorneys said he was an innocent man.
“His actions were justified on the night in question,” said defense attorney Michael Greene, according to the Associated Press.
A probable cause hearing was set for October 7.
Police say what caused the crash was not immediately clear, and pending toxicology results, there is no indication that alcohol was involved. The two other responding officers, Thornell Little and Adam Neal, have been placed on paid administrative leave.
The killing outraged Ferrell’s family and local civil rights groups.
“This was a brutal killing and execution of Jonathan Ferrell,” said the Rev. Kojo Nantambu, head of the Charlotte NAACP, in statement released on Tuesday afternoon. “There is no evidence that shows Jonathan Ferrell should have been shot at all, but for Officer Kerrick to shoot 12 times and striking Mr. Ferrell 10 times indicates more than a reflex, it smells more of hatred and rage, which shows that Mr. Kerrick was predisposed in killing a Black Man and did so with extreme prejudice.”
Nantambu said he will lobby for Kerrick to be charged with murder.
The North Carolina chapter of the ACLU has called for the city to strengthen its citizens review board, which has never ruled against the department, and for all video footage recorded from the scene to be released.
The shooting comes just months after a national conversation on racial profiling, stereotypes and the criminal justice system was sparked by the trial of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman's acquittal ignited anger across the country, particularly among people who say minorities and black men in particular are targeted with little provocation other than the color of their skin.
"The officer is white, Mr. Ferrell is black," Chris Chestnut, the Ferrell family's attorney, said during a press conference with Ferrell's family on Monday. "I think this is poor decision making. I think this is more of a reflection of where we are as a country. That perhaps we need to stop, pause, regardless of race and become more sympathetic to each other. We’re entertaining saving Syria , perhaps we need to save ourselves. Let’s look inward first.”
Ferrell's family described him as an "everyday American" and a hard worker who always put family first.
Georgia Ferrell, Ferrell’s mother, said Officer Kerrick “took a piece of my heart that I can never put back.”
“He took my son from me, but I can only stand here and tell you that I believe God is the one listening to me right now and God would want me to forgive,” she told reporters. “If I don’t forgive, it will be on me forever.”
“It saddens me and my family that he had to be a person to go through something like this at such an age, and as such an innocent person,” Ferrell’s brother, Willie Ferrell, said. “He was just an amazing person.”
“He was trying to live the American dream,” he said.
Ferrell had moved from Florida to Charlotte, N.C., about a year ago to be with his fiancée, his high school sweetheart. The couple was building a life together and Ferrell, who had played college football for Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, took various retail jobs to support their plans.
“This is an honest, everyday, hardworking American with ambition and dreams who had them snuffed out,” Chestnut, the family’s lawyer, said during a press conference on Monday. “He’s engaged to be married, he has a dog and a cat, he was driving a Toyota Camry, he survived an accident, had 3.7 GPA, a chemistry major. This is not someone who posed a threat to the officers or anyone else, this is an everyday American.”
Ferrell’s mother said she last talked with her son on Friday afternoon, the day before he was killed. He was in good spirits, she said. He was saving money with the hopes of continuing his college education.
“Right now I’m somewhat numb,” she said. “I want my son to bury me, I do not want to bury him.”
Around 2 a.m. on Saturday Ferrell dropped off a friend in a quiet Charlotte neighborhood, police said. At some point his car veered off the road. The vehicle was so contorted from the crash that he had to kick out the rear window to escape. Police say he staggered from the embankment and from the thicket of brush and woods and made his way to Reedy Creek Road. He stumbled up to the first house he saw and banged on the door.
On the other side was Sarah McCartney, who slammed the door shut and called 911.
"I feared for my life and my son's life," McCartney, still visibly shaken, told NBC on Tuesday.