State Politics

Ad by Roy Cooper opponent criticizes AG’s handling of Kerrick case

Ken Spaulding
Ken Spaulding

The first attack advertisement in the Democratic race for governor criticizes Attorney General Roy Cooper’s handling of Charlotte’s racially polarizing police shooting.

Specifically, the online ad by Durham attorney Ken Spaulding takes Cooper to task for not retrying the manslaughter case against former Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick. Cooper is white; Spaulding is black.

Kerrick was charged in September 2013 with the shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell, 24, a former college football player who wrecked his car and banged on a nearby door for help. Kerrick was one of three officers to answer a call for a breaking-and-entering in progress. He shot Ferrell 10 times during a resulting interaction.

Prosecutors and Kerrick’s superiors said he used excessive force. Kerrick said Ferrell ran at him and ignored orders to stop. During his trial last summer, the officer said he acted in self defense out of fear that Ferrell would overpower him and take his gun. Kerrick is white; Ferrell was black.

A unanimous verdict was required, but the jury deadlocked 8-4 to acquit and a mistrial was declared. Ferrells’ family called for a retrial. But Cooper, whose office handled the prosecution, announced that he would not refile the charges because his prosecutors did not think they could get a conviction. The charges against Kerrick were dropped. The officer has since left CMPD.

Cooper remains the overwhelming favorite to challenge Gov. Pat McCrory in the 2016 gubernatorial election.

In his three-minute, online ad, Spaulding criticizes the attorney general for appointing himself “judge and jury” in the Ferrell shooting, allowing the killing of an innocent man to go unpunished.

The ad also shows a video of a Cooper campaign speech in which he says McCrory “has the wrong priorities for North Carolina.”

“So do you, Roy,” the Spaulding advertisement asserts.

It’s unclear whether the ad will appear on TV. Spaulding said his campaign is “exploring all possibilities at this time.”

Cooper political adviser Morgan Jackson said the campaign would not comment.

Charlotte attorney Michael Greene, a member of Kerrick’s defense team and a registered Democrat, sharply criticized the ad Thursday morning.

“I think Attorney General Cooper took the politics out of his decision to not retry Randall Kerrick. The facts and the evidence in this case would never result in a conviction,” Greene said.

In response, Spaulding said Greene naturally would support the man “who freed his client without a retrial.”

“A jury of twelve people usually makes those decisions, not a politician who is seeking to run for governor,” he said.

Staff writer Jim Morrill contributed.

Michael Gordon: 704-358-5095, @MikeGordonOBS