Family of Unarmed Man Shot to Death by Police Files Civil Suit

The family of Jonathan Ferrell, a former Florida A&M football player, is seeking damages for his death after he was shot and killed by police.

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Randall Kerrick; Jonathan Ferrell

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The family of former Florida A&M football player Jonathan Ferrell, who was unarmed when he was fatally shot last year by police in Charlotte, N.C., has filed a civil lawsuit against several parties they believe were involved in his death, CNN reports.

According to the complaint filed by Ferrell's mother, which was viewed by CNN, the family has named Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe and the shooter, Officer Randall Kerrick, in the lawsuit.

"I don't know if it will bring peace, but I hope and pray that (in) doing this ... that they get the proper training," Georgia Ferrell, Jonathan's mother, said at a news conference, CNN reports.

According to the lawsuit, it was an early morning in September 2013 when 24-year-old Ferrell (who police would later report had been in a very serious car accident) was looking for help.

A woman saw Ferrell and thought it was her husband approaching.

"To her surprise, it was an individual that she did not know or recognize," Monroe told WBTV. "She immediately closed the door, hit her panic alarm, called 911."

She was home alone with her 1-year-old child and reported that someone was trying to break into her home.

The woman told police Ferrell was "yelling for her to turn her alarm off." According to the lawsuit it was never reported that Ferrell harmed her, made threatening statements, brandished a weapon or stole or vandalized her property. Police were dispatched, and Ferrell left, headed back into the night to seek assistance elsewhere, CNN reports.

Kerrick and two other officers arrived on the scene about 11 minutes after the 911 call. Kerrick didn't speak with the woman; instead he tracked down Ferrell, who "never engages in any conduct which can be objectively reasonably interpreted as aggravated active aggression," according to the lawsuit.

"Defendant Kerrick, in direct violation of written CMPD regulations, fires 12 high-velocity bullets at Jonathan, striking him 10 times in the chest and arms," the lawsuit continues.

Kerrick has been charged with felony voluntary manslaughter, which is defined as using excessive force in self-defense or shooting without the intent to kill. He is free on $50,000 bond, CNN reports.

"We are confident that at the resolution of this case, it will be found that Officer Kerrick's actions were justified on the night in question," his attorney, Michael Greene, said in September.

The shooting was unlawful and Officer Kerrick's firing of his weapon was "excessive," the police said in a statement on Sept. 14, the day of the shooting.

"Our investigation has shown that Officer Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter." The statement also read that "It has devastated a family as well as caused a great deal of sadness and anxiety in our organization."

Kerrick opened fire after an officer tried to subdue Ferrell with a stun gun but was "unsuccessful," police have said.

At the time of Jonathan Ferrell's death, the former gymnast, FAMU chemistry major and safety for the football team was working at both Dillard's department store and Best Buy to save money to complete his education as an automotive engineer, the lawsuit says.

His fiancee, Cache Heidel, told CNN in October that Ferrell had been out with friends that fateful night and had just given a co-worker a ride home. He was on his way back to his own home when he drove off the road, down an embankment and into a group of trees, the lawsuit says.

Ferrell couldn't find his phone, and his car doors were jammed shut, so he kicked out the back window of the car. He then walked a half-mile to the home where he knocked on the door for help, according to the lawsuit, CNN reports.

"He's always a joy to be around. He cared so much for other people, more so than himself," Heidel said in her October interview.

She said she hopes Kerrick is convicted and that her fiance's death will not be in vain.

"That is a hope I have, that his death will resound for a country that prides itself on being diverse and inclusive and accepting everyone for who they are," she said.

Read more at CNN.

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