This was Danquirs Franklin before he was killed by police March 25, 2019
A judge Thursday ordered the release of police video in the fatal shooting by an officer of 27-year-old Danquirs Franklin at a Burger King in west Charlotte.
The ruling came more than two weeks after the shooting, which sparked protests and exposed rifts between the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the African-American community. Police and protesters have provided conflicting accounts about what happened.
CMPD Officer Wende Kerl fatally shot Franklin about 9 a.m. March 25 when other people were also at the Burger King.
Mecklenburg County Superior Court Judge Donnie Hoover ordered the video be released Monday, over objections of the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office.
Releasing the video could impact the ongoing criminal investigation and pose a risk to potential witnesses, Assistant District Attorney Bill Bunting argued.
CMPD, meanwhile, did not object to the release of the video.
WBTV reporter Nick Ochsner, who filed the petition requesting the release of the body-worn camera video, argued in court a compelling public interest allowed for the release under North Carolina law.
“We continue to see skepticism and outcry” about the facts of the case, Ochsner said. He cited the conflicting accounts about the shooting between CMPD and people who were at the restaurant at the time of the shooting.
Jeremy Smith, Kerl’s attorney, argued that the video should not be released because it could jeopardize his client’s safety. People have posted her personal address on social media, Smith said. He also said release of the video could impact witnesses in the case.
“Emotions are still potentially high,” Smith said. He and Bunting said they would not object to the release of the video after the investigation is finished.
Under the law, police officers can use deadly force if they or others face an imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death.
But activists have raised questions about whether Franklin was armed at the time of shooting and asked whether Kerl resorted too quickly to lethal force.
Police have said Franklin had a gun and was shot after he did not follow commands to drop it. One woman, Precious Robinson, said she witnessed the shooting, and described the police version of events as inaccurate.
Protesters are furious CMPD has released little information about the case since the day of the shooting, said Kass Ottley, a protest organizer.
“It’s a problem when you have two completely different stories about what happened,” Ottley said. “They say they want people to talk to CMPD and trust them, well, trust is earned.”
CMPD has refused to answer questions from the Observer about the shooting.
During a news conference Wednesday, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney refused comment, saying he wanted to protect the integrity of the investigation.
“The only way to do that is to shut up,” Putney said. Asked what police video of the confrontation showed, he said only that it “shows a loss of life.”
The court proceedings represent another test of the public’s right to gain access to police video under North Carolina’s 2016 law requiring judicial approval to release police dashcam and body camera video.
The law received national attention because it went into effect shortly after the September 2016 fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, which prompted violent protests and promises from Putney that CMPD would become more transparent.
Judges have approved the release of police video following shootings in all but three cases since the law went into effect, said Jonathan Jones, former director of the N.C. Open Government Coalition.