Ferrell, 24, was unarmed and was reportedly seeking help after a car accident around 2 a.m. Saturday.
The officer that fired the fatal shots, Randall Kerrick, has been charged with manslaughter. What happened before the shooting remains unclear.
A press conference given by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police given later Saturday, before the officer was charged, said that the incident started when Ferrell crashed his car into a northeast Mecklenburg embankment.
Ferrell freed himself by climbing out the back window of his car, and walked a quarter-mile to a house visible from the accident scene.
Then, according to police chief Rodney Monroe's initial statement, Ferrell started "banging on the door viciously."
The woman that lived in the home called 911, believing him to be a robber. Ferrell "immediately ran toward the officers" when they arrived, police said. One officer fired his taser, and the other fired his gun, shooting Ferrell "multiple times."
Ferrell died at the scene. Police initially said that the encounter was "lawful," but later retracted that statement Saturday evening.
The police investigation found “the shooting of Mr. Ferrell was excessive,” authorities said in a statement late Saturday. “Our investigation has shown that Officer Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter.”
Ferrell played two seasons for Florida A&M, including on the 2010 championship team. He had just gotten engaged and moved to Charlotte. His friends described him as quiet and soft-spoken.
“I was saddened when they told me (Saturday),” said Florida A&M football coach Earl Holmes. “They told me he was murdered. I said, ‘What? Murder? That doesn’t sound like him. Not the Jonathan I remembered.’ The Jonathan I remembered was a soft-spoken kid, quiet and to himself.”
“Something like this just lets you know how precious and valuable life really is,” Holmes said. “A lot of times bad things happen to good people."