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Civil rights leaders call for tougher charges in shooting death of unarmed man

The NAACP chapter of Charlotte, N.C., is calling for murder charges in the case of an unarmed black 24-year-old, who was shot and killed by a police officer

The NAACP chapter of Charlotte, N.C., is calling for murder charges in the case of an unarmed black 24-year-old, who was shot and killed by a police officer after what authorities believe may have been an attempt to seek help for a car accident.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Officer Randall Kerrick fired multiple shots into Jonathan Ferrell, a former Florida A&M University student who played on the 2010 championship football team. After being involved in a single-car wreck late Friday night, Ferrell went to a nearby house, presumably to get help. The woman who lived there, however, thought he was trying to break in and called 911. When three officers arrived at the scene early Saturday morning, Kerrick shot and killed Ferrell as he was running toward them. The chief of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said another officer first tried to shoot Ferrell with a Taser gun, but missed.

After turning himself in Saturday afternoon, Kerrick was charged with voluntary manslaughter, a felony that means the offender didn’t have prior intent to kill, but acted in the heat of the moment. He was released Sunday on a $50,000 bond.

Civil rights leaders weren’t satisfied.

“It appears, based on the findings from the video, that not only did [Kerrick] shoot [Ferrell] multiple times, but there were pauses between the shots,” said Kojo Nantambu, president of the Charlotte NAACP chapter, to MSNBC Thursday. “That tells me that he shot him, he looked at him, shot him again, and then looked at him and shot him some more. That to me seems like it was a fit of hatred, a fit of rage, and he did that deliberately.”

Attorney George Laughrun, who is representing Kerrick, told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he watched the dashboard video and that his client told Ferrell to stop at least three times before he fired, the Associated Press reports. Laughrun said the shooting was “clearly” justified because Ferrell didn’t obey verbal commands.

Police Chief Rodney Monroe, however, said that even if Ferrell didn’t stop running toward Kerrick, his actions still did not justify the use of deadly force.

Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray announced on Thursday that he would be recusing himself from prosecuting Kerrick because he used to work with Laughrun and another defense attorney representing him. The case will now be turned over to the North Carolina attorney general’s office to avoid any perceived conflict of interest.

“The nature of the case against Mr. Kerrick is such that the community will be affected by any and all decisions regarding the prosecution and final disposition of the case,” said the DA’s office in a statement. “It would be impossible for Mr. Murray to avoid involvement in the case if prosecuted by his office. Further, it is critical that the family of the victim, the defendant, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the citizens of our community have confidence that the case is handled objectively and impartially by the State's attorneys.”