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North Carolina police shooting of unarmed man spurs civil rights call

By Marti Maguire

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - Civil rights leaders in North Carolina are calling for crime scene video evidence to be made public after police said an officer shot an unarmed, 24-year-old former college football player 10 times.

Charlotte police officer Randall Kerrick was charged with voluntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Jonathan Ferrell early Saturday morning, and is due to be arraigned on Tuesday.

Kerrick fired his weapon 12 times, striking Ferrell 10 times, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department said in a statement on Monday.

Local civil rights leaders called for stepped up citizen oversight of police in response to what they described as a national culture in which young black men often become victims of police violence.

Ferrell was black, and Kerrick is white.

"Any day in this country, an African-American man can be killed for no reason by the people who are supposed to be protecting him," Kojo Nantambu, president of the Charlotte chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said Monday at a press conference held by several civil rights groups.

"That's not an anomaly in this country. They're never given the benefit of the doubt, and that has to change," he said.

The incident began at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday, when Ferrell began knocking insistently on a front door in a suburban neighborhood of Charlotte, according to a police account.

The woman who lives there called 911, unaware that Ferrell had wrecked his car in nearby woods and was apparently seeking help. Three police officers arrived, and Ferrell ran toward them as they left their vehicles.

One officer unsuccessfully fired a Taser at Ferrell before Kerrick fired his gun, killing him, police said. Police found Ferrell's wrecked car later in the morning.

Kerrick's personnel file indicates that he was hired as an animal control officer with the city in 2010, and was promoted to police recruit in 2011. He was suspended for one day in 2012, though a police spokesman could not provide further information on the suspension.

Chris Chesnut, an attorney representing Ferrell's family, said the family will consider its legal options after a thorough review of the case. He questioned whether Kerrick was prepared to handle the situation appropriately, noting that the two other officers involved did not fire their side-arms.

"Clearly this is someone who did not have the necessary intelligence, discernment or compassion to walk the streets of Charlotte with a handgun, let alone a badge," Chesnut said.

The North Carolina chapter of the ACLU and other groups called 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.

Ferrell's mother, Georgia, said that she is still praying for the man who killed her son. Ferrell had played football at Florida A&M University before moving to Charlotte last year to be with his fiancée.

"You took a piece out of my heart that never can be put back," she said, addressing Kerrick. "But I forgive you."

(Editing by David Adams and Leslie Adler)

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