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‘Shoot first, ask questions later,’ yell protesters after Charlotte officer kills man

Protests broke out Monday at the scene where an allegedly armed man was shot and killed during an encounter with a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer.

Tension centered on whether the man who died — 27-year-old Danquirs Napoleon Franklin — was armed at the time of the shooting.

Police said he had a gun, while protesters disagreed.

The shooting happened around 9 a.m. at a Burger King on Beatties Ford Road, near Interstate 85, police said.

Some members of the crowd that gathered across the street from the shooting were overheard yelling at police as they cleared the scene. “Shoot first, ask questions later,” one protester yelled.

At least one of the protesters, identifying herself as Precious Robinson, says she was a witness and disputes the police account of what happened. Robinson says she was sitting at the restaurant’s drive-thru when the incident unfolded. An armed man apparently was threatening a woman at Burger King, she said, and an unarmed man tried to help the woman.

Police shot the man who was unarmed, she said.

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Precious Robinson talks about what she saw at the Burger King on Beatties Ford Road near Interstate 85 in Charlotte March 25. Robinson spoke about a man who was allegedly armed being shot and killed during an encounter with a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

CMPD later said that “misinformation” was circulating about the shooting, and offered a series of clarifications, including confirmation that officers saw the suspect with a gun and “he refused” to drop it. “We encourage any witnesses to speak to our officers,” said a CMPD tweet.

According to two 911 calls released by CMPD Monday afternoon, two women called separately from the Burger King to say they saw a man with a gun.

“A customer came up here and he walked behind the counter to fight an employee,” said the first 911 caller, who was inside the restaurant.

A few moments later, her voice got more urgent. “He got a gun! He got a gun!” she said, adding that he had pointed it at someone.

The man was apparently in and out of the Burger King during the two-minute call. At one point, the caller can be heard instructing someone to lock the door.

Officers arrived at the scene four minutes after the first 911 call began, police said.

CMPD Police Chief Kerr Putney briefed the media outside the restaurant and said: “We get here, engage the subject, who is armed. There are multiple commands to drop the weapon, as we engage him outside in the parking lot. At some point...one of the first arriving officers perceived a lethal threat (and) fired at least one round, striking the subject.”

That officer was later identified as Wende Kerl.

Investigators also found a gun at the scene and it is believed to be the suspect’s weapon, Putney said.

He said he was not yet sure how the man was holding the weapon when the shooting occurred, but it was “apparently pretty obvious because he was getting verbal commands to drop the weapon.”

“It was visible. At some point, there was a movement or something that they perceived as a lethal threat, and fired the weapon,” Putney said.

Franklin was pronounced dead at Atrium Health’s Carolina Medical Center, police said.

In 2010, former Charlotte Observer staff writer Eric Frazier profiled Franklin and another student, Juwon Lewis, in a story focused on the low graduation rate among African-American males in North Carolina.

Franklin, a high school senior at the time, was the example of the student with hopes for college. Both spent their first year of high school at Midwood, then a special campus for kids at risk of dropping out. Juwon eventually quit.

“Danquirs is making peace with his past,” Frazier wrote in the story.

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In this 2010 photo, Danquirs Franklin, 18 at the time, poses for a family portrait with his grandmother, Mary Boyd (center), and his mother, Deborah Franklin. T. Ortega Gaines The Charlotte Observer

His mother, Deborah, said that Franklin “had cocaine in his body when he was born. … I did drugs all nine months I was pregnant,” according to the 2010 story.

Franklin’s grandmother raised him, according to the story.

In a follow-up story in June 2011, Frazier wrote: “Conventional wisdom says Danquirs Franklin should be a high school dropout by now. Instead, he’s about to enroll in college.”

At the time, he was preparing to enroll at the Art of Institute of Charlotte and trying to find loans and grants to cover his education, according to the story.

“I am so proud of him,” said his mother, Deborah Franklin, who kicked her cocaine habit in 2007, according to the 2011 story.

She declined to comment for this story on Monday.

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A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer gathers up tape outside the Burger King on Beatties Ford Road near Interstate 85 in Charlotte on March 25, after a man who was allegedly armed was shot and killed by an officer. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The department’s Internal Affairs Bureau will conduct an investigation into the shooting, and a separate investigation will look into whether CMPD policies and procedures were followed in the case, police said.

Officer Kerl has been placed on paid administrative leave, “which is standard policy whenever an officer discharges a service weapon,” police said. Kerl has worked for CMPD for nearly 24 years, according to the department.

No officers were injured.

Major Mike Campagna and several other CMPD officers talked with protesters shortly before noon and stayed for about 40 minutes. Campagna said they’re part of CMPD’s “Constructive Conversations” team, which has its roots in the protests that followed the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.

Charlotte City Council member Braxton Winston acknowledged that there are differing accounts of the events and he was hoping to keep communication open as the investigation progressed.

This is the second time CMPD officers have killed someone in 2019. In January, police said Michael Daniel Kelley was armed with a knife when he was shot near a Family Dollar store in west Charlotte.

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