Democrat Roy Cooper’s Gubernatorial Campaign Under Siege by African Americans and Cops Who Feel Betrayed Over Shootings Cooper was Already on Thin Ice with Black Voters If African American turnout in Mecklenburg Country is down substantially this fall due to anger with Democratic leaders over the handling of the police killings in Charlotte,
Democrat Roy Cooper's Gubernatorial Campaign Under Siege by African Americans and Cops Who Feel Betrayed Over Shootings
Cooper was Already on Thin Ice with Black Voters
If African American turnout in Mecklenburg Country is down substantially this fall due to anger with Democratic leaders over the handling of the police killings in Charlotte, all Democrats running in competitive statewide races in North Carolina this fall, especially Democratic gubernatorial nominee Roy Cooper, will be in big trouble. Here’s why:
- There are 227,720 black voters in Mecklenburg County (33% of all county voters)
- Black voters are 74% of all Democrats (308,052) in Mecklenburg County
- More black voters in Mecklenburg County than all Democrats in 38 counties
Many Mecklenburg County black voters were already angry with Roy Cooper over his decision last August not to retry the Charlotte police officer who shot unarmed 24-year old Jonathan Ferrell 10 times on September 14, 2013.
Ferrell, a former Florida A&M football player, had been in a car accident and was attempting to get help when a confused resident called 911 and reported an attempted break-in. Three officers arrived. Ferrell moved towards them in a way that one officer, Randall Kerrick, felt was threatening. Kerrick fired the fatal 10 shots.
Officer Kerrick was not indicted by the first grand jury that heard the case. Attorney General Roy Cooper decided to present the case to a second grand jury. That’s why cops are mad at Cooper. The panel indicted Kerrick on charges of voluntary manslaughter in January, 2014.
The trial began last July. On August 21, 2015, a mistrial was declared by the judge when the jury deadlocked 8-4 after four days of deliberation. The judge’s decision to declare a mistrial was followed by protests in Charlotte that included rocks thrown at officers.
One week later, on August 28, 2015, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that he would not retry the voluntary manslaughter case against the officer. Cooper said that he was persuaded that a second trial would also end with a deadlocked jury.
Jonathan Ferrell’s family wanted the state to retry the police officer, as did local political leaders like U.S. Rep. Alma Adams and Corine Mack, president of the Charlotte NAACP.
Rev. Dwayne Walker, pastor of Little Rock AME Zion Church, echoed the sentiments of many black Charlotteans when he told the Charlotte Observer, “I just don’t understand how an officer can get away with shooting an unarmed man 10 times.”
Most Democrats in Charlotte agreed.
According to a poll conducted last year immediately after the mistrial, August 26-27, 2015, by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling firm based in Raleigh, 6-of-10 Democrats (59%) said the officer in the Jonathan Ferrell case should be retried.
The NAACP, convinced that Roy Cooper had given up on the pursuit of justice, continued to call for a new trial throughout the state.
On September 10, 2015, The Wilmington Journal carried a statement by the NAACP titled, NC NAACP responds to Attorney General Roy Cooper’s refusal to retry officer Randall Kerrick for the wrongful death of Jonathan Ferrell.
Here are highlights (abridged):
- Randall Kerrick, a white officer in Charlotte NC, shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed black male college student. Ferrell was shot ten times.
- While he claims he was under duress, he never used any other form of reasonable force such as pepper spray, his baton or a Taser
- Attorney General Roy Cooper has refused to retry the case stating that, “his prosecutors believe unanimously that a retrial will not yield a different result.”
This year, throughout the state, local news sources have continued to report commentary critical of Attorney General Roy Cooper’s handling of racially sensitive cases. Example: February 24, 2016, Triad City Beat: “Cooper’s track record as attorney general has left many African-American leaders across North Carolina less than enthusiastic about his candidacy.”
Police Walk Out on Cooper over Kerrick Case; Endorse McCrory
For Roy Cooper, the Jonathan Ferrell case has become a lose-lose political dilemma. Not only did African Americans around the state feel betrayed by Cooper for not retrying the case against Randall Kerrick for killing the unarmed Ferrell, but law enforcement officers around the state also felt betrayed by Cooper for seeking an indictment against Kerrick in the first place.
As Jim Morrill noted in his August 16, 2016 story Lingering anger over Kerrick case boils up in N.C. governor’s race, about a third of the officers attending the state convention of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) walked out on Attorney General Roy Cooper as he was attempting to justify his decision to prosecute Kerrick for shooting and killing Ferrell.
According to Randy Hagler, state president of the FOP, the Kerrick case was a significant factor in why the organization, with over 6,000 members statewide, voted to endorse North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory this year. (FOP endorsed Democrat Walter Dalton in 2012.)
“We don’t defend bad officers … we try to represent the officers who are on the line making split-second decisions, and that’s the heart and soul of this entire organization,” said one of the delegates to Cooper during the Q&A session.
Then, September 23, 2016. The killing of Keith Scott, another African American male, by a Charlotte police officer. A killing followed by rioting, looting, objects thrown at officers and a protester shot dead. A state of emergency. Police camera footage withheld from the public.
Black voters in Mecklenburg County are furious with Democratic Mayor Jennifer Roberts and the Democratic majority (9-2) Charlotte City Council over the way they managed the crisis. They expressed their fury Monday night at a chaotic city council meeting, calling for the resignation of Roberts and shouting such incendiary phrases as, “Hands down - Shoot back.”
If black voter turnout in Mecklenburg County is down substantially this fall due to anger with local and state Democratic officials, all Democrats running in competitive statewide races this fall, especially Democratic gubernatorial nominee Roy Cooper, will be in big trouble.
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