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‘I didn’t have a choice,’ CMPD officer says in video after fatal shooting

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police on Wednesday released more body camera footage from Wende Kerl, the officer who fatally shot Danquirs Franklin last month.

“I shot him,” Kerl can be heard saying in the video. “He pulled a gun. He wouldn’t drop it.... I didn’t have a choice.”

The 11-minute-plus video captures what happened when Kerl responded to 911 calls about an armed man threatening people at a west Charlotte Burger King. It includes footage that CMPD had withheld last week, including the minutes after the shooting.

Franklin slumped to the ground after he was shot. Moaning can be heard in the moments after the shooting.

CMPD policy says officers should take “any appropriate measure they are trained and certified to take” to render medical aid to an injured person in the event of an officer-involved shooting. Before they are certified, entry-level police officers in North Carolina undergo 32 hours of first responder training to learn to provide medical assistance to injured people, including those with gunshot wounds.

In the video, CMPD officers cannot be seen giving first aid to Franklin. An emergency worker from a fire department is first seen about four minutes after the shooting. He appears to bend down to give Franklin aid.

CMPD did not respond to a request for comment late Wednesday.

In an interview with WSOC-TV, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said Wednesday that officers could have rendered more aid.

‘That’s what matters’

The video provides new details about a shooting that prompted multiple protests over the killings of African-Americans by CMPD and raised questions about the department’s transparency.

Days of rumors followed Franklin’s death and city leaders worried that violent protests could erupt after the footage was made public.

Nearly nine minutes of the newly released footage shows that after the shooting, Kerl repeatedly said that Franklin wouldn’t comply with orders to drop his gun.

“He had a gun, he wouldn’t drop it, he wouldn’t drop it, and then he reached in his thing, pulled the gun out, we didn’t know, we thought it was in the hand, and I shot him,” Kerl said.

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Another officer attempted to comfort Kerl while she sat in a patrol car, about six minutes after shots are fired.

“You’re all right, you’re all’re sitting here talking, right? Got kids at home, right? Want to see them this evening, right?”

“Yeah,” Kerl responded.

“That’s what matters,” the other officer replied.

About 25 seconds later, Kerl asked if Franklin was alive. The person responding to that question said, “don’t know.”

Police said Franklin was pronounced dead at Carolinas Medical Center the morning of the shooting.

In a written statement Wednesday, Kerl’s attorney Jeremy Smith said the shooting was justified.

Smith noted that when Kerl fired her weapon, Franklin was squatting next to an open car door. Another man is in the car’s passenger seat.

“There was an innocent civilian talking to Mr. Franklin no more than a few feet away when, after being told more than twenty times to either ‘show us your hands’ or ‘drop the gun,’ (Franklin) pulls the gun out in the direction of the civilian,” Smith said. “It is all this information that Officer Kerl had to analyze in a split second.”

Judge orders video released

On Tuesday, a Mecklenburg County judge ordered the release of the video of the moments before and after Kerl shot Franklin.

In response to a previous court ruling, CMPD last week made public two minutes and 20 seconds of Kerl’s body camera video. Kerl fired shots at the two-minute mark, and as the clip ended, she was leaning down toward Franklin, 27, and saying, “I gotta pick up the gun.”

But the officer’s camera captured at least 11 minutes and three seconds of footage. CMPD has acknowledged that it withheld nearly nine minutes of video.

WBTV reporter Nick Ochsner filed a motion to bring CMPD back into court and explain why a shortened video was released, which led to Tuesday’s hearing.

In court, a police attorney objected to releasing the full video, saying it could jeopardize Kerl’s right to a fair trial. Kerl’s attorney, Smith, said he did not object.

Superior Court Judge Lisa Bell ruled that the entire video should be released.

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Bell said she will rule later whether CMPD is in contempt of court for withholding the footage. She scolded the department for not providing the longer video to Mecklenburg Superior Judge Donnie Hoover, who originally ordered the recording be released.

Putney testified that “dozens” of videos were likely recorded by cameras worn by officers who came to the scene.

The Charlotte Observer has filed a petition for more body camera video and other recordings from the scene of the shooting. Bell did not rule on the Observer’s petition on Tuesday.


What's the process for getting body-worn camera footage from CMPD?

A 2016 state law prevents police departments from releasing body camera video except through a court process. Anyone can file a $200 petition and pursue the release of video through the courts, and almost every fatal CMPD shooting in the past two years has been the subject of at least one petition for video.

Once a petition is filed, CMPD is supposed to turn over the requested video to the judge so the judge can privately review it prior to a public hearing.

If the hearing is held before the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office has decided whether to charge an officer, an assistant district attorney typically argues against release, saying it could influence a future jury or interfere with the ongoing investigation. The officer’s personal lawyer usually makes a similar argument.

CMPD’s lawyers typically do not object to the release but often argue for minor edits, like blurring the faces of civilians and cutting out the names of people not directly involved in the incident.

The judge can either deny the release or issue an order approving it.

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