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North Carolina cop 'justified' in shooting unarmed man, lawyers say

By Marti Maguire

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - Lawyers for a North Carolina police officer say he was "justified" in shooting an unarmed man 10 times, killing him shortly after police say he survived a car accident early Saturday morning.

Officer Randall Kerrick, 27, is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Jonathan Ferrell, 24, who had played football at Florida A&M University.

At a brief court hearing on Tuesday in Charlotte, a judge scheduled a probable cause hearing in the case for October 8. Kerrick was not present in court.

His attorneys, Michael J. Greene and George V. Laughrun, issued a statement saying that they are "confident that the evidence will show that Officer Kerrick's actions were justified that night."

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department took the unusual step of charging Kerrick later on the day of the shooting.

Police said in a statement that Kerrick "did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter."

The tape of the 911 call that triggered the incident was also released on Tuesday, revealing a panicked caller who was woken up at about 2:30 a.m. by heavy knocking on her front door.

"There's a guy breaking in my front door," the woman said. "He's trying to knock it down."

She said she opened the door because she thought it was her husband. Alarmed to find an unfamiliar black man instead, she locked the door and called 911.

During a 17-minute recording, the caller repeatedly cried "Oh, God" and worried aloud about her baby sleeping in his crib as she waited on the line for police to arrive.

Early in the call, she said the intruder was still in the yard.

Ferrell had wrecked his car about half a mile away from the woman's home. Authorities believe he was seeking help when he knocked on the door.

Later, the caller watched through the window as the police searched her house and then went up the street.

It was then, police say, that three officers found Ferrell, who ran toward them. When one officer's Taser did not stop Ferrell's advance, Kerrick fired his gun 12 times, hitting Ferrell 10 times.

In charging Kerrick, the police said that while Ferrell "did advance" on the officer, Kerrick's action was "excessive."

The racial overtones of the case have spawned outrage among civil rights advocates; Ferrell is black, while Kerrick is white.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union are calling for the city to strengthen its citizens review board, which is tasked with investigating complaints against police, but has never ruled against the police department.

The ACLU is also calling for all video footage recorded at the scene to be considered a public record. Charlotte police last month began testing body cameras to replace recording devices on squad car dashboards.

(Editing by David Adams and Leslie Adler)

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