Activists react to newly released police shooting video
After Charlotte police killed a black man, and — at first — only part of the body-camera video was released to the public, activists are stepping up their demands to the city for transparency.
They want the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to explain why Danquirs Franklin was not given medical aid after being shot outside a Burger King last month. They want city officials, who saw nearly nine minutes of footage a week before the public did, to resign. And they’ve issued a deadline: Answer us by Monday, or else.
“They knew what was on the video. This was damage control,” said Gemini Boyd, an activist and founder of Project B.O.L.T. “A young man lost his life... Someone needs to be held accountable.”
On the steps of CMPD’s headquarters last week, he and other activists said the police’s failure to initially hand over a longer video was yet another sign that CMPD had ignored longstanding calls for more honesty.
When asked to provide a video of “the incident” to a judge, CMPD handed over only two and 20 seconds of footage, which was then released to the public on April 22 under a court order.
Until The Charlotte Observer reported on the existence of that longer video, neither Police Chief Kerr Putney nor members of city council disclosed that much of the body-camera footage had not been released — even as they spoke at police-community meetings on April 23 and 24.
“You can’t forgive someone who continually lies to you,” said Corine Mack, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP.
She added that the longer video, which was released Wednesday under a court order, did not make police seem any more truthful.
On Wednesday, Kass Ottley, an organizer with Charlotte Seeking Justice, reiterated calls for Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Wende Kerl to be charged — and for every officer involved with the shooting to be fired. She and others said Kerl failed to employ de-escalation tactics before shooting Franklin, and pointed out he had not been given any medical aid.
“It didn’t matter what he did,” said Ottley, who began crying as she watched the longer video. “He was not going to come out of this situation alive.”
Who should investigate?
Andrew Fede, a lawyer and activist, said that an independent body, not CMPD, should be tasked with investigating this incident. Their failure to hand over the full video, he said, shows they cannot be trusted.
Unlike some other counties in North Carolina, Mecklenburg policy dictates that a special police team — rather than the State Bureau of Investigation — must conduct probes into officer-involved shootings.
The District Attorney’s office is required to inform the family of a shooting victim that they can request an independent investigation, which is then carried out by the SBI. Meghan McDonald, a spokesperson for the DA’s office, declined to say whether Franklin’s family had requested an investigation because the office does not comment on pending investigations.
Fede told the Observer in an interview Thursday that even an SBI probe would not fully address his concerns. Over five years ago, the board had recommended not to bring charges against the officer who fatally shot Jonathan Ferrell.
“It is a rock and a hard place type of situation,” Fede said, noting that because there is no SBI office in Charlotte, its investigations can be slower and more bureaucratic.
Instead of a government body, he said, more investigative authority must be given to the Citizens’ Review Board, a group of 11 Charlotte residents who are appointed by the mayor, city council and city manager.
Holding city council accountable
Nearly every person who spoke at the press conference Wednesday also slammed city officials for failing to disclose that nearly nine minutes of video had not initially been released.
“How are we going to talk about transparency and trust and healing in Charlotte,” Fede asked, “when we can’t even trust any of our elected officials at this point?”
He said he expected more from candidates who promised to do better after mass protests shook the city three years ago, following the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.
At a city council meeting last week, Mayor Vi Lyles said the council made a mistake by not acknowledging they had seen a longer video.
“Sometimes you do things with the very best of intentions and it just doesn’t work out that way,” she said. “It’s not necessarily with a negative intent or an intent to corrupt the system.”
All they got, though, was more of the same, said Mack, of the NAACP. Ahead of city council elections later this year, she suggested those officials’ failure to speak up would hurt them.
“No more of the tomfoolery. No more of the false narratives. No more of the fakery,” Mack said. “At the end of the day, when you had the opportunity to cover the people of Charlotte, you did not. You covered the people who killed Mr. Franklin.”