Commentary: Sadly, Another Shooting of an Unarmed Black Man

Commentary: Sadly, Another Shooting of an Unarmed Black Man

An young, unarmed North Carolina Black man was shot and killed by police, reminding the nation that social change does not happen quickly.

Published September 16, 2013

(Photo: AP Photo/Florida A&M University)

Once again, the nation has an unsettling and disturbing story about an unarmed, promising young man who was shot and killed by police.

This time it happened in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Jonathan Ferrell, a 24-year-old former Florida A&M football player was fatally shot by a police officer after his car crashed. After the crash, Ferrell sought help at a nearby private home. But the woman in that home, seeing the Black athlete undoubtedly distraught by the accident, came to the determination that he was a criminal and called 911 reporting a robbery attempt.

That led the police to stop Ferrell, who approached the officers. One of the police officers used a Taser to stop the young man. As Ferrell continued to approach the officers, one of them shot and killed him. The police now say they believe Ferrell was doing nothing more than seeking assistance from the police after crashing his car.

It is a heartbreaking situation; another young African-American life snuffed out at the hands of overzealous police officers. There can be no question that the police as well as the woman from whom Ferrell sought assistance came to some sharp and ultimately fatal conclusions about the Black former football player. For some Americans, the sight of a young Black man produces harsh visceral emotion.

To the credit of the police department, they took immediate action against Randall Kerrick, the officer who fired at Ferrell. He was charged with voluntary manslaughter, which is a felony. He turned himself in and was released on $50,000 bond.

"The evidence revealed that Mr. Ferrell did advance on Officer Kerrick and the investigation showed that the subsequent shooting of Mr. Ferrell was excessive," the police said in a statement. "Our investigation has shown that Officer Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter.”

That was by far a more sensible course than what followed the killing of Trayvon Martin, when George Zimmerman left the police station a free man for a considerable amount of time.

Still, it serves as an example of how Black men continue to be the victims of outrageous stereotype, as they have been since the founding of America. The death of this young athlete again demonstrates how people draw immediate conclusions about Black men, purely out of their own biased worldview.

It is a sad truth that shows little sign of going away any time soon. Perhaps incidents like this, where the police were quick to charge their fellow officer with a crime, will cause them to think twice before using their weapons.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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Written by Jonathan P. Hicks


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