There are times when the universe seems to align and things just fall neatly into place as though it was meant to happen that way. Like, say, some time ago, when a guy, new to the internet, was in an AOL chatroom — Remember those days? — and started chatting with another guy.
Where are you?
I’m in Cali ….
And the first guy, being from Mexico, took Cali to mean Cali, Colombia, while the second guy meant Cali as in California.
That little misstep started Carlos and I chatting online and here we are over thirteen years later.
As I said, there are times when the universe aligns and wonderful things happen. But—and you know with me, there’s always a but—there are other times when the universe misses by that much all sorts of hell break loose.
Last Saturday night, or rather, very early Sunday morning, Sarah McCartney heard a loud bang on her front door. She was home alone, with just her baby, and thought maybe something had happened to her husband. She opened the door to find a young black man standing on her porch.
McCartney instantly closed the door and called 911 to report an attempted robbery.
“I need help. There’s a guy breaking into my front door, he’s trying to kick it down.”
She told the operator she was home alone, and that her husband had guns, but she couldn’t find them. Then she’s heard saying, over and over:
“Oh my God … He’s in the front yard yelling … I need help.”
Still on the phone with 911 when police arrived, McCartney says, “Oh, please let them get him.”
The police found the young Black man in McCartney’s yard, and he started coming toward them. One officer shot the man with a Taser, but that didn’t stop him, so another officer, Randall Kerrick, fired at the Black man twelve times, hitting him ten times. The young man was unarmed.
The young man was Jonathan Ferrell, a twenty-four-year-old, former Florida A&M University [FAMU] foot ball player, who had recently moved from that state to Charlotte, North Carolina to be with his fiancée, his high school sweetheart. And he was killed last weekend by police after wrecking his car along the road and then dragging himself to Sarah McCartney’s front door, begging for help.
Officer Kerrick has been charged with voluntary manslaughter; the two other responding officers, Thornell Little and Adam Neal, have been placed on paid administrative leave.
Now, there’s more to the story, of course; there are some who are calling this an act of racism, because Jonathan Ferrell was a black man and Randall Kerrick was white, but we don’t know that right now. We don’t know if Kerrick fired because Ferrell was Black, or if he fired because Ferrell, who had been Tasered, continued to advance towards him.
But, what we do know are a couple of things — and I’ll say this without laying blame:
- Had Sarah McCartney taken an extra minute at her door that night, she might have learned about Ferrell’s accident. Then, her 911 call might have been used to get the young man medical treatment.
- And, had the officers taken a moment longer and seen that Jonathan Ferrell was unarmed—and possibly injured—perhaps Kerrick wouldn’t have fired 12 shots at the man, hitting him ten times.
As I said, the universe aligns every so often to make things happen, and last weekend, had people listened, paid attention, and really seen what was happening, Jonathan Ferrell might be nursing the wounds of a car accident, and not be ready for burial after being shot to death.
For her part, Sarah McCartney told reporters: “I feared for my life and my son’s life.”
All because a black man was knocking on her door at 2:30 in the morning. Now, I’m not blaming her, much, but I will say this, and hope that people listen: not every knock at the door is an attempted robbery, and the man banging on the door isn’t a thief simply because of his skin color. Sometimes they are 24-year-old former football players on their way home to their fiancé.
Georgia Ferrell, Jonathan’s mother, says Randall Kerrick took a piece of her heart that she can never get back, but added:
“He took my son from me, but I can only stand here and tell you that I believe God is the one listening to me right now and God would want me to forgive. If I don’t forgive, it will be on me forever.”
I think it will be on all of us forever, too.