The news from North Carolina was shocking and disheartening. A grand jury decided not to indict a Charlotte police officer who killed Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed 24-year-old African-American former football player at Florida A&M University.
Again, America is treated to the spectacle of the shooting death of a young Black man, carrying nothing remotely deadly, with a justice system that seems to find no fault on the part of the assailant. It is a chilling thing to witness, again and again.
In this case, Ferrell’s family has long contended that the young man was running toward police for assistance after he had a car accident. At that point, Officer Randall Kerrick, a 28-year-old police officer, shot Ferrell a total of 10 times.
The family’s lawyers have maintained that the autopsy results indicate that the overwhelming majority of bullets were fired in a downward trajectory, indicating that Ferrell was either on his knees or on the ground when the shots were fired.
Yet, the grand jurors said there was insufficient evidence to indict Kerrick for voluntary manslaughter. They asked the state attorney general’s office to file the case again, but with lesser charges.
From the tragedy of Trayvon Martin to the case of Ramarley Graham, the scene is being played out far too often in America. And leaves families doubly beleaguered, first by the senseless loss of these young men and, second, by being disenchanted by a system that seems to disregard the injustice that is so readily apparent.
The prosecutors in the case said they would resubmit the case, saying that some of the grand jurors were not present for the decision. However, whatever that produces will take many more months, leaving a grieving family with no sense of resolution. There is little wonder that in most such cases, the families are increasingly turning to civil suits, suing the perpetrators for the violation of the victim’s civil rights.
“Civil suits and other court actions take a long time and it’s hard for families to be patient,” said Royce Russell, the attorney for the family of Graham, the unarmed Black 18-year-old who was shot by police who followed him into his home in the Bronx two years ago. Graham’s family is pursuing a civil suit after the case was dismissed by a Bronx judge because of a technicality.
As we saw during the trial of George Zimmerman, the prosecution left no stone unturned in their quest to make Trayvon Martin seem like a menacing, aggressive thug who got what he deserved. Yet, one simply wishes that these juries would somehow see these young Black men as human beings with all the dreams and potential of anyone else, as people with families whom they love who love them, of contributors to their communities. Hopefully, they and others will get that message one day.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Florida A&M University)