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911 call: A plea for help before police officer shoots unarmed man

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 11:17 AM EDT, Wed September 18, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "There's a guy breaking in my front door," a woman tells a 911 dispatcher
  • The call brought police to her North Carolina home, where an officer shot the man
  • Now police say the man was unarmed and looking for help after a car crash
  • The officer who shot him is charged with voluntary manslaughter

(CNN) -- The sobbing woman pleads for help in a 911 call.

"There's a guy breaking in my front door," she says.

The dispatcher repeats: "There's a guy breaking in your front door?"

The caller comes back quickly: "He's trying to kick it down."

She cries as she tells the dispatcher that the man is yelling. She describes what he's wearing -- a green shirt and khakis or jeans. As she anxiously awaits police, she repeatedly asks, "Oh my God, are they almost here?"

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The frantic 911 call, released by authorities Tuesday, brought officers to the North Carolina home on Saturday.

Minutes later, 12 bullets from one officer's gun flew toward the 24-year-old unarmed man outside, who authorities now believe had been looking for help after a car accident. Police say the officer hit him 10 times.

Now Jonathon Ferrell is dead. And Randall Kerrick, the police officer who shot him, faces a felony charge of voluntary manslaughter.

The release of the 911 tape Tuesday is the latest twist in a case that has drawn national attention and calls from some activists to charge the police officer with murder.

Police have said Kerrick and two other officers responded to what they believed was a "breaking and entering" call.

When they got to the scene, police say, a man matching the 911 caller's description ran toward them.

Attorney for man's family: Killing was cold-blooded

Attorney Chris Chestnut says that's when something went terribly wrong. And he says Ferrell's family members watched a police video on Monday that shows it.

Chestnut says the video, filmed from the dashboard of one of the police cruisers on scene, shows a clearly unarmed Ferrell moving forward toward police with his hands out, then panicking as two laser beams hit the center of his chest.

"Then he gets excited, and he's like -- 'wait, wait, wait' -- and he's coming forward saying, 'stop,' and he goes off camera, and you just hear shots. One, two, three, four...pause...one, two, three, four, five, six...pause. One, two."

Police declined CNN's request to review the dash-cam video, saying it was sealed as part of the ongoing investigation into the shooting.

They have said one of the officers fired his stun gun as Ferrell came toward them. When that was "unsuccessful," police said, another officer opened fire.

Now police say Kerrick used excessive force and had no cause to shoot Ferrell.

"Our investigation has shown that Officer Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter," police said in a statement Monday.

They've charged Kerrick with voluntary manslaughter, a felony. He was released Sunday on $50,000 bond.

But Chestnut, who watched the video with Ferrell's family in a meeting with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief on Monday, said there's only one way to interpret it.

"Cold blooded," he said. "Badge or no badge, that's murder."

Attorney for officer: His actions were justified

Michael Green, a defense attorney representing Kerrick, declined to comment on evidence in the case.

"We're not going to make any general statements about the evidence at this time, as the case is still pending. We're going to allow this case to be tried in a court of law," he said. "However, we're confident that the resolution of this case will be found that Officer Kerrick's actions were justified on the night in question."

In a statement to investigators regarding the shooting, Kerrick said he suffered injuries and was assaulted. A probable cause hearing has been set for October 7.

At a news conference Monday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe said the department's hearts go out to Ferrell's family and to members of the police force.

"This is never something easy," he said.

The police department said in a written statement Monday that the shooting "has devastated a family as well as caused a great deal of sadness and anxiety in our organization.

"However we must always strive to bring forth all facts and evidence in every case to determine when it is appropriate to place criminal charges against a member of the department," the news released added.

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CNN's Josh Levs, Ed Payne and Rich Phillips contributed to this report.

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