Lingering Anger Over Cop's Mistrial a Factor in North Carolina Governor’s Race

August 17, 2016

A year after the prosecution of former Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Wes Kerrick ended in a mistrial, the case continues to cast a shadow over North Carolina’s gubernatorial race.

On Saturday, about a third of the delegates at the state convention of the Fraternal Order of Police walked out on Attorney General Roy Cooper after the Democrat answered questions about the case. Most were from Charlotte-Mecklenburg, but officers from other parts of the state joined in, officials of the group said.

Later, FOP members voted to endorse Cooper’s gubernatorial opponent, incumbent Pat McCrory, a Charlotte Republican. Four years ago, the group backed his opponent, Democrat Walter Dalton.

The Kerrick case was a significant factor, said Randy Hagler, state president of an organization that has more than 6,000 members statewide. The FOP spent $500,000 on Kerrick’s defense, and members blame Cooper for deciding to prosecute Kerrick on what they feel was insubstantial evidence, and then taking the case to a second Mecklenburg grand jury after the first one refused to indict the police officer for voluntary manslaughter.

“We just couldn’t endorse a candidate who wouldn’t make a tough decision for political reasons,” said Hagler, a longtime CMPD officer who’s now chief of police for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Kerrick was charged in the 2013 shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed African American. His 2015 jury trial ended in a hung jury. Despite pleas from Ferrell’s family – and a nationwide debate over police treatment of African-Americans – Cooper’s office decided not to retry him. In a settlement with the city, Kerrick left CMPD.

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