NC Police Shooting Update

[Content Note: Police brutality; guns; violence; racism.]

Yesterday, I wrote about Charlotte-Mecklenburg (North Carolina) Police Officer Randall Kerrick, a white man who was arrested after fatally shooting 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell, a black man who had been in a car accident and approached police for help, after the resident on whose door he knocked in the middle of the night called police.

Today, there are more details about the shooting:
An unarmed man seeking help after a car crash over the weekend was shot 10 times by the Charlotte police officer who's now charged in his death, investigators said Monday.

A police news release said Officer Randall Kerrick fired 12 times at 24-year-old Jonathan A. Ferrell early Saturday while responding to a breaking and entering call. Ten of the bullets hit the former Florida A&M University football player.
Even if Ferrell had been doing something wrong—and he wasn't—police aren't tasked with reflexively murdering someone who is a threat to them or others. If it not possible to detain them, and a gun must be used as a last resort, surely some attempt should be made to disable someone before just slaughtering them in a hail of bullets.

I feel so desperately sad for Ferrell's family.

Also: Police brutality has always been a problem, especially against marginalized populations, as long as there have been police. But our collective unwillingness to address our garbage gun policies is making police objectively less safe (as it is making all of us less safe), and surely there are individual officers whose fear about gun proliferation will inform an urge to use deadly force in situations where none is needed. That is not to absolve Kerrick and other officers like him of their crimes, not even a little bit, but to highlight yet another consequence of our failure to take action on guns.

My point is not to make excuses for Kerrick, but to address what our communal responsibility is in having failed Ferrell.

And then there's this: As we hear ever more cases like this one, where does that leave us? If a man unknown to me comes knocking at my door in the middle of the night seeking help, I don't want to feel like if I call authorities ostensibly equipped with providing the aid he's seeking that I'm risking his life. I don't want to feel like I have to risk my own safety in order to protect a stranger's.

I'm not suggesting that Ferrell would have harmed the woman on whose door he was knocking. Clearly, he would not have. But that's the thing about strangers: You don't know. And if there's anyone about whom to be angry that we cannot safely trust men who are seeking help, it's the men who have feigned help-seeking to prey on their victims, and the victim-blamers who shame women who have extended good faith to help-seekers who victimized them.

Police routinely tell members of their communities to call them when a stranger needs help. When anyone needs help. But how can we safely help someone we believe is in genuine need by calling police, when this is a potential result?

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