Former Florida A&M University football player Jonathan Ferrell was shot dead by a police officer Saturday morning in Charlotte, N.C., as he ran toward police seeking help after surviving a car accident.
It’s a tragic story, and one that has led to the cop who shot Ferrell, one Randall Kerrick, being charged with voluntary manslaughter.
But it’s not just a story, it’s also the day that a young man lost his life under terrible circumstances, and as more people find out about his death, it’s worth taking a step back and considering just who Jonathan Ferrell was.
First of all, it seems that he was a caring person, as Ferrell was nicknamed “the shepherd” because of the way he cared for the people he knew and loved, according to The Nation.
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Those loved ones include a grieving mother, Georgia Ferrell, who says she has forgiven Kerrick for killing her son, who would have been 25 years old in October.
“I truly forgive him. I pray for him. And I pray that he gets off the police force,” she said in a Monday news conference, CNN reported. “You took a piece of my heart that I can never get back.”
The list of those who will miss Jonathan Ferrell dearly also includes a fiancée -- he moved to Charlotte to be near her -- and twin brother Willie Ferrell, a fellow alum of the Florida A&M University football squad.
The Ferrell family’s lawyer, Chris Chestnut, offered some further information about Jonathan Ferrell alongside Georgia Ferrell during the Monday press conference, according to MSNBC.
“This is an honest, everyday, hard-working American with ambition and dreams who had them snuffed out,” Chestnut said. “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.”
Willie Ferrell expanded on those words during the same news conference.
“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,” he said. “He was just an amazing person. … He was trying to live the American dream.”
Jonathan Ferrell last spoke with his mother Friday afternoon, and he seemed to be upbeat on the last full day of his life. Ferrell played for Florida A&M in the 2009 and 2010 seasons and was focusing on saving money in hopes of returning to school when his life was cut short, his mother said at the presser.
At about 2 a.m. on Saturday, the day that Ferrell died, he reportedly dropped a friend off in Charlotte then somehow drove off the road and into an embankment, demolishing his car in the process, police said. He made his way up to the road and to a nearby home and knocked loudly on the door, awakening Sarah McCartney, who opened the door, shut it, and called the police.
“I woke up around 2:30 a.m, and there was a strange man kicking and banging violently on the door … I feared for my life and my son's life,” McCartney told NBC in a Tuesday interview. “I thought something had happened to my husband so I opened the door, realized it wasn't him and shut the door.”
That “strange man” was Jonathan Ferrell, and when the police arrived on the scene, he reportedly ran toward them, at which point he was reportedly shot first with a taser, and then by Kerrick’s gun, which fired 12 bullets, 10 of which hit their mark.
The fact that Ferrell was black has ignited a controversy in the wake of his death, as people decry the fact that he was shot by a white man, and that a woman chose to close the door on him and call the police rather than help him. The controversy comes on the heels of other recent racial firestorms, particularly over the February 2012 shooting death of black Florida teenager Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman, an adult of Hispanic and white background who was found not guilty of any crime.
Ferrell’s death was a tragedy and one that raises difficult questions about race and police tactics, but it left a man dead, and it’s important to remember that as the controversy continues in the coming days.