‘His life is not in vain’: Family, mourners remember Danquirs Franklin

Candle light vigil honors Danquirs Franklin at Marshall Park

Activists and concerned citizens met at Marshall Park in Charlotte, NC on Thursday, April 25, 2019 to hold a candle light vigil in honor of Danquirs Franklin who was shot and killed by CMPD officer Wende Kerl at a Burger King in West Charlotte.
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Activists and concerned citizens met at Marshall Park in Charlotte, NC on Thursday, April 25, 2019 to hold a candle light vigil in honor of Danquirs Franklin who was shot and killed by CMPD officer Wende Kerl at a Burger King in West Charlotte.

Shirley Gomillion grabbed a piece of purple chalk, retracing what had been etched onto the concrete floor of Marshall Park: “Danquirs Franklin, rest in power.”

In the two weeks since an anti-violence rally, those words, and the heart drawn around them, had faded. But only a little.

“It’s symbolic in memories of him,” Gomillion said, laying down stones and pink carnations along the curves of the heart. “It’s a sign that he’s looking down.”

Below, in yellow, she scribbled: His life mattered.

That was the message here on Thursday at a candlelight vigil to honor Franklin, a black man who was killed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Wende Kerl one month ago in an incident at a west Charlotte Burger King that’s struck a nerve across Charlotte.

Activists have criticized Kerl for failing to use de-escalation tactics and give Franklin medical aid. And they’ve blasted the police for at first releasing only a few minutes from her body camera — and not mentioning they had withheld the rest. Police, meanwhile, have said they were responding to two 911 calls from the Burger King about an armed man they say was Franklin.

But as a few dozen mourners and family members held candles and stood around the heart, all that mattered was the 27-year-old’s legacy.

“He was a big kid at heart,” his aunt, Tamara Hope, told the crowd. “He was just a gentle giant. When you saw him, he had a huge smile on his face.”

Franklin loved working out with his cousins, and playing basketball, and Marvel comics, she said. He would have loved to see the new Avengers movie coming out Friday.

Stephanie Coleman, another aunt, said her nephew has been falsely portrayed. He was a father. He co-wrote a book to encourage black men to become mentors.

“He was a caring, kind guy,” she said. “He cared about people and he loved his family.”

Amid so much violence, Coleman said it was time to unite around his memory, to celebrate Franklin. And she said she remained hopeful that his death would mean fewer incidents like it.

“It’s going to make a change. His life is not in vain,” she said. “We don’t know who’s next. Hopefully, this right here is going to put a stop to it.”

‘Tragedy after tragedy keep happening’

Three of those in attendance on Thursday night were close relatives of Kendal Crank, who was killed the same week as Franklin.

“When you’ve gone through something, you can understand what the other family’s been through too,” said her older brother, 33-year-old Robert Crank. “So it’s like a mutual understanding in this.”

Kendal’s mom, Linda Crank Springs, even meant to attend Franklin’s funeral. She and Franklin’s mother, Deborah, knew each other as girls, when they lived on the same block off of Belmont Avenue.

“I can sympathize with her,” Spring said, in “that I would be going on that same road within a week or so. It’s such a tragedy.”

Franklin was killed on a Monday. Springs had planned to offer her condolences at his funeral on that Saturday. But three days before the ceremony, on Thursday, she lost her own daughter.

While driving down North Tryon Street to a college class, Crank was killed by a stray bullet. And in that moment, fate connected her to Deborah Franklin, the young girl she used to play with during her summers in Charlotte.

“Just like I lost a daughter, she lost a son. It’s a tragedy,” Springs said, “and tragedy after tragedy keep happening.”

Two families. Two mothers with children killed by guns. Two 27-year-olds who they say were gone far too soon.

The two women had a mutual cousin who they would often take turns watching. And Crank remembers meeting Danquirs just once, at another funeral, for a loss in the Franklin family.

Mourning the loss of her own daughter, she couldn’t bring herself to go to Danquis’ own funeral. So instead, she came out Thursday to support the Franklin family — so that Deborah could know she’s not alone, and to remind herself of the same.

“So many mothers have lost their daughters or sons. It’s just consistently happening,” she said. “Even though it was a different situation, it still was a tragedy.”

If nothing else, she said, they could come together and offer mutual support.

“We have to stand up for justice, comfort one another, get God back into the community,” Springs said.

That’s what happened toward the end of the vigil on Thursday, where mourners had added other phrases in chalk under Franklin’s name: “Black man.” “Father. Hero.” And off to the side: “Kendal Crank.”

Standing in a circle, the crowd joined in prayer and recited the words altogether: “Danquirs Frank. Rest in power.”

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