CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A grand jury has indicted a Charlotte police officer for voluntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed former Florida A&M football player.
The indictment was handed down Monday hours after a judge ruled the North Carolina Attorney General's office could resubmit the case to a grand jury.
Investigators say Randall Kerrick shot 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell on Sept. 14 as Ferrell looked for help after a car crash.
Attorneys for Ferrell's family praised the decision.
"There is a tremendous sense of relief for the family. We are very thankful that the grand jury carefully considered the evidence and returned the indictment," said Charles Monnett III.
In a statement, the family said it would continue to monitor the case.
"We will persevere in our quest for justice for not just Jonathan, but all law abiding citizens. After all, what happened to him that night could happen to any of us," the statement said.
Last week, a Mecklenburg County grand jury refused to indict the 27-year-old Kerrick, a former animal control officer, on a voluntary manslaughter charge.
Attorney General Roy Cooper decided to send the case to another grand jury because the first grand jury was missing four members.
Kerrick's lawyers filed a motion Friday to stop it, arguing prosecutors cannot resubmit a case.
During a court hearing Monday, Senior Deputy Attorney General James Coman said there was nothing in state law that blocks prosecutors from resubmitting the case.
"Our position is clear. We can go back to a grand jury," he said.
Judge Robert Bell agreed.
"They have the right to go back to a grand jury," Bell said.
At the end of the hearing, one of Kerrick's attorneys, George Laughrun, asked the judge to issue a gag order. He said public comments from prosecutors and attorneys for the victim's family were making it difficult for his client to get a fair trial.
But Bell refused, saying that issue wasn't in front of the court Monday.
The voluntary manslaughter charge carries a prison sentence of up to 11 years.
This is the latest development in the high-profile case.
Representatives of the Charlotte chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other civil rights groups have questioned whether race played a role in the shooting. Kerrick is white; Ferrell was black.
Ferrell's family said he moved to Charlotte about a year ago to be with his fiancee and was working two jobs. He wanted to go back to school and eventually become an automotive engineer, they said. He had no criminal record.
Police say that Ferrell wrecked his car and went to a nearby house and banged on the door, apparently for help. The resident called police, and three officers responded. Investigators say Kerrick fired 12 shots, 10 of which hit Ferrell. Kerrick was the only officer who fired his gun.
Cooper's office declined to comment on the indictment. But in an earlier statement, the attorney general said he was going before a grand jury again because only 14 of the 18 members of the original panel heard evidence in the case.
Ferrell's family has filed a lawsuit against Kerrick and police Chief Rodney Monroe in Mecklenburg County Superior Court. The lawsuit says Kerrick used excessive force. The family said the city of Charlotte and the police department failed to ensure its officers are adequately trained and instructed in the use of force.
The city has declined to comment on the lawsuit.