Everything I learn about how the wide world works gives me insight into how the little world I live in works, and everything I learn about my little world gives me insight into how the wide world works.
But I generally don’t blog about the wide world. It’s just too damn wide.
Yesterday, though, while writing about unlocked doors and keys in the ignition, I read a news report from Charlotte, North Carolina.
One Jonathan Ferrell, 24, had a car accident on “a rural stretch of road” around 2:30 yesterday morning. The car was banged up enough that he had to extricate himself through a rear window. He went to the nearest house and knocked on the door. The woman, one Sarah McCartney, opened the door, saw a young black man standing there, shut it, and called 911, apparently in a panic. “There’s a guy breaking into my front door, he’s trying to kick it down,” she told the 911 dispatcher.
Shortly thereafter three Charlotte police officers appeared. Ferrell ran toward them. One officer fired a taser at him. It had no effect. A second officer, Randall Kerrick, fired 12 shots, 10 of which hit Ferrell. Ferrell, who was unarmed, was killed.
The Ferrell family lawyer saw a 20-second video of the scene. He reports that after the failed taser attempt, Ferrell stretched out his arms to show he was unarmed. Then Kerrick started shooting: Four shots. Pause. Six shots. Pause. Two more shots. Then an officer yelled “Get down.”
I’m not going to say the R-word, though you know goddamn well I’m thinking it. I’m thinking that if I, a 62-year-old white woman, had knocked on Ms. McCartney’s door at 2:30 in the morning, she would have asked what I wanted. She might even have let me in. I’m thinking that if I had run toward the police officers, none of them would have raised a taser, never mind a gun, to stop me.
I’m thinking that Officer Kerrick’s response was better suited to a rampaging wild animal than to an unarmed human being. (One report says Kerrick was a rookie cop and a former animal control officer.)
I’m thinking that law enforcement officers, especially those carrying lethal weapons, should be able to assess situations, even chaotic, high-stress situations, on the fly and make their decisions accordingly. As reported, this situation doesn’t sound chaotic at all, and while some stress was involved — we’re talking three officers versus one (unarmed) man.
I’m thinking that if Ms. McCartney hadn’t been so panicked by the sight of a young black man on her doorstep, she might have closed her door and asked what the young man wanted.
I’m thinking that for decades studies have been suggesting that people who watch a lot of violence on TV tend to believe the world is more dangerous than it is. (See the Wikipedia article on “cultivation theory” for an interesting introduction to this idea.)
And finally I’m wondering if Martha’s Vineyard is all that more dangerous than it was 10 or 20 or 40 years ago, and if the widespread assumption that it is more dangerous might be making it, well, more dangerous.
I cried when I read this story. Why, why, why???
Do you mind if I copy and post your blog entry to my FaceBook page? It will simply be the blog with a note that I read this and thought it needed to be circulated.
By all means! All you have to do is copy and paste the link to the blog post. When it appears on your timeline, you’ll have a space to make a comment. That’s how I share most of my blog posts on FB.
Truly disgusting. My heart goes out to that fellow.
We had a similar situation in Canada, where a teen, alone on a Toronto streetcar because the bus driver and passengers had already fled, was shot multiple times by a police officer and killed. That officer has been charged with murder. Our teen, though, unlike the fellow in North Carolina, was disturbed and carrying a jackknife. Still, it turns out that he never had a chance, either. There has been a call for better police training, especially in dealing with disturbed people, but what we’re getting instead is the arming of all officers with tasers. I suppose that’s better than nothing, but there have already been killings with tasers, too, so I don’t know…
In this case, one officer tried a taser but it didn’t work. (Not sure why — mechanical failure? bad aim?) At that point Ferrell held out his arms to show he wasn’t armed. Then Kerrick started shooting. IMO there was enough time for a reasonably competent officer to decide that lethal force wasn’t necessary.