Act Erratically and the Police Will Shoot You

Display unusual behavior and, although unarmed, you could be shot by a police officer.

That is precisely what happened to two men, in two different states, over the past weekend.

Officer Shoots Unarmed Man Fatally in North Carolina

Early on Saturday morning, 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell, a former Florida A & M football player, was shot and killed by Officer Randall Kerrick of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in North Carolina, says the Charlotte Observer. After being a car crash severe enough that he apparently had to crawl out the back window, Ferrell walked about a half-mile to the nearest residence.

When the owner of the house saw Ferrell, who is African-American, she called “police because she thought he was trying to rob her,” the Charlotte Observer reports. Officers who arrived at the scene said that Ferrell was acting “aggressively.” After one officer unsuccessfully fired a taser, Ferrell “continued to run toward them.” Kerrick fired several times at Ferrell, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Two Bystanders Shot By Police Pursuing Unarmed Man

On Saturday night in New York City’s Times Square, police also fired at an unarmed African-American man, says the Guardian. Two bystanders, including a woman using a walker, were wounded as people ran for cover.

The man has been identified as 35-year-old Glenn Broadnax of Brooklyn. His behavior on Saturday night was erratic, according to the New York Times:

Witnesses and officials said that Mr. Broadnax had been darting in front of cars at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue starting about 9:30 p.m. At one point, he appeared to have been hit and knocked to the ground by a taxi, [Kerri-Ann] Nesbeth [a bystander] said. She said Mr. Broadnax then picked himself up again.

“He was very disoriented,” she said. “It’s almost like he didn’t realize what had happened. He started to walk toward the taxi as though he was going to confront the driver.”

At that moment, she said, a police officer intervened and tried unsuccessfully to move Mr. Broadnax out of the intersection.

Broadnax “reached into his pocket as if grabbing a weapon” as officers approached; two officers fired three shots, says the Guardian. With bystanders shouting at the officers not to shoot Broadnax, police tasered him and took him into custody.

Now in stable condition at Bellevue Hospital, Broadnax told authorities that “I had a mission to kill myself.” He had previously served at least four years in prison for robbery and had been arrested a number of other times. While some authorities have said that he appeared “emotionally disturbed,” police said that he does not have a history of mental illness. Broadnax has been charged with “menacing, obstructing governmental administration, riot, criminal possession of a controlled substance, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.”

Use of Excessive Force

North Carolina police officer Kerrick has been charged with voluntary manslaughter and is now in custody. According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Rodney Monroe, Kerrick’s “shooting of Mr. Ferrell was excessive” and the police’s “investigation has shown that Officer Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter.”

The two New York Police Department officers involving in the shooting of the two bystanders in Times Square are both “relatively new to the department,” according to commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. Both have been placed on administrative duty while the NYPD investigates.

Outrage about the police and accusations that they were “reckless and sloppy” has been circulating on the Internet and for good reason. As ThinkProgress comments about the shooting of Ferrell,

While the FBI keeps detailed information on the numbers and types of crimes that are committed throughout the United States, there is no comprehensive tracking mechanism for police shootings. FBI spokespeople have said there is no mandate for them to keep such statistics and that it would take an act of Congress in order to establish a database. Congress, so far, has refused to ask for one.

Such a mechanism is needed. Both Ferrell and Broadnax were African-American; would police have used their guns if they had not been?

The shootings of Ferrell and of the two bystanders in New York City were certainly “excessive.” While the mental health history of both Ferrell and Broadnax is unclear, cuts in mental health services have meant that police have increasingly been summoned to deal with people displaying “erratic behaviors.” Law enforcement officers need far more training about how to assist such individuals. Unusual behaviors and even aggression can be a sign of distress but not a reason to pull the trigger on an unarmed person in search of help.

Photo from Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Tricia Hamilton
Tricia Hamilton4 years ago

They shouldn't be called pigs, They should be called white trash. Pigs is too good a name for them.

Dominic C.
Dominic C4 years ago

Sometimes this is just sad. When have we ever acknowledge that police brutality has ever decreased? Used to be NYPD was the talk of town when I was in the US. Policemen, like some of the members here discussed about some of the police tactics in the slightly smaller sub-urban cities in the US today. Of course, big cities PDs perhaps have become more ethical because cities' AGs and Mayors have tried to clean up the image of the city. During the 1980s, NYC was basically an unbelieveable dangerous city and many nice people (upon my arrival in NYC) advised me to stay indoors after 9PM. If one is taking a subway after that time, a transit cop could just come up and ask and perhaps harass one. And they could do that then upon the suspicion that one is perhaps up to no good. The last time I was in NYC (that's about 2 years ago) I was surprised to see the major - major drastic change and I felt safe (anywhere) - AMAZING! But since the behavior of enforcment officers improved in NYC, I still hear about bad apples in upstate NY. I was and am still puzzled. Perhaps the screening is so tough that those who have behavioral problems start applying to cities where there is a less stringent screening criteria or basically where cities are in need of enforcement officers. But do not worry about this - I think the media has to be transparent and truthful and once they are able to yield these bad public perceptions, you see a change of the Top manager and subsequent employees in the city. That

Rainbow W.
.4 years ago

My aunt was a cop. As she said, there are good cops and stupid cops [more of the later]. She started her career in LE in Tarrant County in the 70’s right after Cato Hightower ‘reign of terror’. Cato was Chief of Police and ran the county with an iron fist. He killed my grandfather by strangulation. Cato brought drugs and arms to north Texas, and controlled the prostitution and gambling. After he died no one filled the void and the Texas Rangers swooped in and arrested most of the officers in the PD and SD.

Even after that it was bad. Cops would solicit sex, steal from the evidence room and harass female officers.

A good cop can take down a suspect with little or no force, without harming innocent bystanders. David F. they undergo some of the same training we did in the military; you’ve got to have orders to use force and you must make sure you can hit your target. We had to watch for civilians, cops are no different. If they can’t do their job they shouldn’t be there.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown4 years ago

Of course, David F., you would rationalize and find excuses for the needless execution of innocent people by the police.

Lynnl C.
Past Member 4 years ago


Spencer Young
Spencer Young4 years ago

Being a cop in a high crime area like Chicago has to be stressful and when you constantly see the worst of the worst it can be difficult to see the good from the bad. I wouldn't want to be a cop who always wonders if this will be the call that kills me. I don't think training sensitivity will help when you in fear of your own life

Elke H.
Elke H4 years ago

Being a COP (Constable on Patrol) is getting more and more difficult. Kids have no respect, people are stressed out about making it, including COPs. Makes for more than a volatile situation. And when an unspeakable thing happens, it makes everyone look bad, so there is that pressure. Society is heading in a direction I am not thrilled about.

Mari 's
Mari 's4 years ago

Cops gone MAD!! Seriously how many HELLS on earth do we HAVE to create??? What is going on???

Gloria picchetti
Gloria picchetti4 years ago

Jonathan Ferrell had no weapon but he was shot twelve times. Two of the shots missed him. It only takes one shot to a shoulder to leg to disable someone who is threatening. I think the cop that shot him is a blood thirsty criminal who should not have been on the police department.