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Police Killing of Jonathan Ferrell: Lawsuit Likely

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on September 19, 2013 11:51 AM

The police shooting of Jonathan Ferrell is under increasing scrutiny since the ex-college football player's death on Saturday. Ferrell's family is now being represented by an attorney with experience in wrongful death cases.

The Charlotte Observer reports that criminal charges in a use of deadly force case are rarely charged "so swiftly," with investigations typically taking weeks at least, according to police experts.

Since criminal charges on are the fast track, will Ferrell's family be as quick to file a civil lawsuit for wrongful death?

Contradictions in Reports

Jonathan Ferrell, 24, was shot and killed by Officer Randall Kerrick, 27, who responded to a 911 call from a woman who apparently believed that Ferrell was a burglar. Police believe Ferrell was actually seeking help after a car crash.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe, who had initially told the Observer that Ferrell was "viciously" banging on the woman's door, told the Observer on Tuesday that despite conflicting reports, "[i]t was clear that Ferrell was unarmed" and "Kerrick's decision to shoot was unlawful."

While the chief's opinion is damning, a court will have to determine based on the specific circumstances of Ferrell's shooting whether deadly force was justified. Kerrick fired 12 shots at Ferrell, who was struck 10 times.

According to the Observer, Kerrick's attorney, George Laughrun, told reporters that the shooting was justified "because Ferrell didn't obey the [officers'] verbal commands."

A lawyer for Ferrell's family, however, insists Kerrick opened fire without warning. "By the time they stop shooting, then they start saying 'Get on the ground, get on the ground.' He had already been shot," the lawyer, Christopher Chestunt, said, according to the Observer.

Wrongful Death Suit

Jonathan Ferrell's mother Georgia told reporters Monday that she "forgive[s] [Kerrick]" and "pray[s] that he gets off the police force," reports CBS News.

Still, the family has obtained Chestnut as their lawyer -- an attorney who "specializes in wrongful death lawsuits," according to the Observer. Chestnut also represented the family of Robert Champion, the FAMU marching band member who died after a brutal hazing incident.

If Kerrick is found guilty of voluntary manslaughter in killing Ferrell, then victory in a potential civil case -- with a much lower burden of proof -- for the same conduct is pretty much a lock. Kerrick remains free on $50,000 bail.

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