Jurors on Wednesday began their first full day of deliberation in the trial of a white North Carolina police officer charged with voluntary manslaughter in the death of an unarmed black man in September 2013.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Randall Kerrick has been suspended since the fatal shooting of Jonathan Ferrel, a former Florida A&M football player.
The incident occurred 11 months before the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., launched the nation into a year-long debate over the role of race in interactions between white police officers and black suspects.
In September 2013 Mr. Ferrell wrecked his fiancee’s car on his way home after an outing with friends and sought help at a house in a neighborhood east of Charlotte. The homeowner, afraid someone was trying to break in, called 911. Officer Kerrick and two other officers responded, and the deadly confrontation ensued.
Kerrick fired 12 shots – eight of them at Ferrell's fallen body.
Following the shooting, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department released a statement calling the shooting unlawful. "The evidence revealed that Mr. Ferrell did advance on Officer Kerrick and the investigation showed that the subsequent shooting of Mr. Ferrell was excessive," police said in a statement 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."
During the trial, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Capt. Mike Campagna testified that Kerrick's actions were not consistent with law enforcement training and department policy, as The Christian Science Monitor previously reported.
A racially diverse jury, made up of eight women and four men, will decide whether Kerrick used excessive force when he fired 12 shots – eight of them at Ferrell’s fallen body – or whether he was justified because he thought Ferrell posed a deadly threat. If convicted, he could face up to 11 years in prison.
Prosecutors say nonlethal force should have been used to subdue Ferrell, but Kerrick's attorneys argue that the officer feared for his life when he shot and killed Ferrell.
Before jurors began deliberation on Tuesday, prosecutor Adren Harris told jurors that unarmed Ferrell never made threats to Kerrick.
"All they're trying to do is demonize this young man, because it's easy to say this person deserved what they got when you muddy them up," Mr. Harris told the jury, according to the Associated Press.
Since Ferrell's death, high profile shootings in Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore, New York, and Los Angeles have sparked several waves of protests across the United States.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.