‘We want justice!’ Activists say CMPD officer was wrong to shoot and kill armed man

Members of local activist groups criticized the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police killing of Danquirs Franklin on Wednesday morning, a few dozen feet from where the 27-year-old was killed by Officer Wende Kerl in March.

Kass Ottley, an activist with Seeking Justice Charlotte, said police should have used de-escalation tactics and tried to talk with Franklin instead of yelling at him to put down the gun within seconds of arriving at the scene.

Two people were interacting with Franklin and appeared calm just before the shooting, she said, citing body camera video released Monday.

“He should have been able to walk away from this alive,” Ottley said.

Two 911 calls reported an armed man at Burger King that morning, and police have said Franklin was that man. Kerl’s body camera video appeared to show him lowering a gun toward the ground when he was shot. Shortly after the shooting, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said Kerl perceived a lethal threat from Franklin before she fired her gun.

Putney has said the body camera video made him feel sick, and he’s repeatedly refused to comment on the details of the case.

As is typical after CMPD shootings, police are currently conducting two investigations — one involving criminal law and the other involving internal CMPD policy. When the criminal investigation is done, the case will be presented to the district attorney’s office, Lt. Brad Koch said Wednesday.

Ottley said Putney should charge Kerl with murder or manslaughter instead of waiting on the district attorney’s office to make a decision.

She also said Putney’s engagement with the community, including visits to local churches Tuesday and night and tonight, is not the same as taking action.

“For some reason, police officers have a history of going directly to deadly force when they interact with black and brown people,” Ottley said. “So we need to discuss that and it needs to change ... We want justice for Danquirs Franklin.”

Charlotte Uprising and Southeast Asian Coalition activist Myka Johnson said she screamed when she saw the body camera video of Kerl shooting Franklin. So many people of color have been killed by police, she said, that it’s hard to keep them straight.

“How many more people have to die before we stop believing that police are here to protect us?” she asked.

Johnson echoed the description of the shooting shared by Precious Robinson the day it happened. Robinson told the Observer she was at the Burger King and saw Franklin protecting a woman from another man before he was shot by police. Robinson said Franklin didn’t have a gun, and the other man did.

Johnson said that shows Franklin was a hero trying to take care of someone in his community. He was engaging in the kind of de-escalation that he didn’t get from police, she said.

Glo Merriweather, an activist with Charlotte Uprising and Southeast Asian Coalition, said police are doing just as much damage to struggling communities as poverty and a lack of education. Merriweather said those systemic issues are connected to the number of people of color imprisoned and shot by police.

“We know that if Franklin grew up on the south side, this probably would not have happened,” Merriweather said

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Jane Wester is a Charlotte native and has been covering criminal justice and public safety for The Charlotte Observer since May 2017.