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Questions over police shooting remain at uptown rally after release of video

Gathering at Marshall Park serves as a peaceful remembrance of Danquirs Franklin

Family and friends gather in Marshall Park in uptown Charlotte, NC on Monday, April 15, 2019 to remember Danquirs Franklin and speak to the need of coming together as a community. Franklin was shot and killed by CMPD officer Wende Kerl on March 25th.
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Family and friends gather in Marshall Park in uptown Charlotte, NC on Monday, April 15, 2019 to remember Danquirs Franklin and speak to the need of coming together as a community. Franklin was shot and killed by CMPD officer Wende Kerl on March 25th.

A few dozen people convened for an uptown rally Monday evening after the release of body camera footage of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer fatally shooting Danquirs Franklin. At least two other community gatherings took place elsewhere in the city.

Franklin, 27, was shot outside a westside Burger King on March 25 after police officers ordered him to drop a handgun. Police released video of the encounter Monday afternoon after a judge ordered them to do so.

At the rally in uptown’s Marshall Park, people gathered in a circle, many of them holding signs honoring Franklin. City Council members Braxton Winston and Larken Egleston were among those attending.

As candles and incense arranged in the shape of a heart burned, with Franklin’s name chalked in the middle, speaker after speaker described a sense of deja vu.

Community members prayed for the city's healing and unity. They said they want to see more church initiated groups that will help build a better community and ultimately reduce violence in Charlotte.

“Seems like far too many times we’re coming out to this park because we’ve lost another life,” said the Rev. Rodney Sadler.

Ray McKinnon, senior pastor at South Tryon Community Church, said in an interview that he has more questions than answers after viewing the video footage.

“I see, from my view, a person who was on their knees, who seemed to be attempting to comply with what (police officers) said,” McKinnon said.

That’s led to doubts of his own about the shooting at Burger King, which took place just a few minutes from his house. Why did officers not order Franklin to raise his hands, or pat him down? he asked. And how, McKinnon wondered, can you measure an officer’s fear in that situation?

After meeting with an assistant chief and City Council members following the shooting, McKinnon said he had another question: Are elected officials telling the full truth? He said he had expected, following his meeting with city officials, more conclusive evidence than was detailed in the video.

Video shows Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Wende Kerl fatally shooting Danquirs Franklin on March 25, 2019.

“The chief consistently is saying this is one piece of the puzzle,” McKinnon said, and “that presumes that folks trust that we will be shown all the pieces. I can’t say I trust that.”

Corine Mack, president of NAACP Charlotte, said a “deep-rooted bias” against African Americans denies them rights that whites enjoy.

“If you’re not black, you don’t understand what it feels like to be black in this country,” Mack said in an interview. “The fear that you have for your own life and the fear that you have for your childrens’ lives every single day. At any given moment, it could be your child.”

Community activist Gemini Boyd called on members of the clergy to lift up the community because they’re not getting the help they need from elected officials. “It’s on us to make a difference in these communities,” she said.

The community must continue to respond to such incidents, added Cat Bao Le of the Southeast Asian Coalition.

“We’ve been out at this park way too many times,” she said. “You can’t move slowly. You can’t move fast. They shoot you anyway.”

Video shows Danquirs Franklin putting gun down before Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Wende Kerl fatally shoots and kills him.

Uptown protests in September 2016 followed another police shooting, that of Keith Lamont Scott. In March a jury convicted Rayquan Borum of second-degree murder for shooting a fellow protester, Justin Carr, at that event.

Near the end of the rally, Franklin’s cousin, Alexis Jackson, told the crowd about a young man who had played basketball with police officers and written about making his community better.

“Danquirs meant something to our family,” Jackson said. “He was a success story to our family.”

Other gatherings

A day of solidarity and nonviolence within communities across Charlotte happened on Monday despite the release of the CMPD body-cam video on that shows the shooting death of Danquirs Franklin by a CMPD officer.

Community gatherings had been planned for Monday evening at five locations around the city in hopes of keeping protesters from converging in uptown, organizers say. Most drew small or no crowds.

“No Limit” Larry Mims, a morning radio host on Power 98 WPEG, first proposed the gatherings, which have been billed on social media as a day of solidarity to “stop the violence.” As Mims’ post picked up steam on social media, community and faith leaders across town each signed on to host their own events outside of the city center.

About 15 people gathered with Mims in the Belmont neighborhood. Mims said he wouldn’t comment on the police video out of respect for Franklin’s family, but called it shocking.

At Nations Ford Community Church, about 50 people met outside to mark what senior pastor R.J. Davis called a “heart-wrenching” death.

Some offered solutions to Charlotte’s three-fold rise in homicides this year. Launch “family-building” programs. Host conflict resolution sessions at community centers. Encourage more adults to mentor young people.,

“We’re praying for the families, and we’re praying for the city,” Davis said. “ We never want to see this happen again”

Community conversations

CMPD Chief Kerr Putney, meanwhile, will hold two community conversations this week about police officers’ roles and their relationships with the community, the department tweeted Monday. The sessions will be Tuesday at East Stonewall AME Zion Church and Wednesday at Little Rock AME Zion Church. Both will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Kenneth Williams, professor at South Texas College of Law in Houston say police followed protocol in the shooting of Danquirs Franklin. Williams viewed the body camera footage released by CMPD in the March 25, 2019 shooting.

Putney and Mayor Vi Lyles urged the public to stay calm at a news conference before the video was released. “We are prepared for the worst but praying for the the best,” Putney said.

In recent days, Lyles, Putney and City Manager Marcus Jones have met with local clergy, community organizers and activists , according to people who attended the meetings or were given advance notice of them. People who attended the meetings said it was apparent that city leaders are concerned about public reaction to the video.

Charlotte-based security firm Professional Security Services on Monday increased security personnel in uptown at Mecklenburg County government buildings and some Charlotte Area Transit System locations, said Lee Ratliff, deputy chief at the firm.

Ratliff declined to disclose specific sites or by how much security had been increased. The firm has been providing security services for the county for six to seven years and to CATS for about a year and a half, he said.

For the county, the firm provides guards at buildings near the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, Ratliff said. For CATS, the firm supplies guards at locations other than the Charlotte Transit Center at 310 E. Trade St., he said.

Danquirs Franklin was killed outside the Burger King on Beatties Ford Rd. He lived a difficult life, but people like his grandmother and his teachers pushed him forward.

Staff writers Fred Clasen-Kelly, Anna Douglas, Joe Marusak and Jane Wester contributed.

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