J. Bradley Smith of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “Do I need to hire an attorney if I have been falsely accused?”
The shooting death of teen Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer—and the subsequent protesting, rioting and looting—has many Charlotteans asking “Could that happen here?”
NAACP Charlotte President Kojo Nantambu said during a Thursday press conference that Charlotte, like Ferguson, is a hotbed of racial hostility. “NAACP” stands for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “Police are supposed to be protecting us,” Nantambu said, “but they are killing us instead.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. echoed Nantambu’s sentiments in a USA Today editorial, writing that anywhere Americans look, “There’s a Ferguson near you.”
Like the Brown case, the killing in Charlotte last year of 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell made headlines around the world. Ferrell was shot to death by CMPD Officer Randall Kerrick after a car crash. Both Brown and Ferrell were unarmed at the time of their shooting deaths. In the Ferrell case—unlike in the Brown case—Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police quickly named Kerrick as the officer who fired the shots that killed Ferrell. After an investigation, Kerrick was charged with voluntary manslaughter.
Nantambu praised the way Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police handled the Ferrell investigation. Charlotte avoided the unrest currently plaguing Ferguson.
Now CMPD is taking another important step towards increasing transparency and avoiding the kind of rancorous back-and-forth about facts that is plaguing the investigation into Michael Brown’s death. According to a source inside CMPD, officers are just weeks away from donning body cameras.
CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe said that equipping officers with body cameras will increase the trust the community has in police and, at the same time, cameras will provide the State with crucial evidence regarding the circumstances of crimes and the conduct of responding officers. Security expert Karl de la Guerra said that human nature is such that when people know they are on camera, they are more apt to behave themselves. The Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office and the Cherryville Police Department have already been using body cameras for months.
In the Brown case, Officer Darren Wilson has alleged that Michael Brown was rushing at him when Wilson fired at him, according to sources. The first volley of bullets, sources said, failed to stanch Brown’s progress so, evidently, Wilson fired again. At least one bullet struck Brown in the head, killing him.
Had Wilson been wearing a body camera, the camera would likely have recorded the officer’s entire encounter with Mr. Brown. It would serve as a crucial piece of evidence in determining whether Wilson shot Brown in self-defense or whether he shot Brown in cold blood. There is no doubt that supporters of Brown and Wilson have diametrically opposed beliefs about what happened. No one, it seems, has all the relevant facts.
Mr. de la Guerra said body cameras will be useful for “a solid defense on both sides,” meaning that when a community finds an officer’s justification for using force hard to believe, a police department will be able to prove him right by producing a video. If the officer is lying or mistaken, the video will show the officer for what he is.
Arnold & Smith, PLLC is a Charlotte based criminal defense, traffic violation defense and civil litigation law firm servicing Charlotte and the surrounding area. If you or someone you know need legal assistance, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.
About the Author
Brad Smith is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of criminal defense, DUI / DWI defense and traffic defense.
Mr. Smith was born and raised in Charlotte. He began his legal career as an Assistant District Attorney before entering private practice in 2006.
In his free time, Mr. Smith enjoys traveling, boating, golf, hiking and spending time with his wife and three children.
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