Crime & Courts

Here’s what we know (and what we don’t) as CMPD releases longer police shooting video

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police released Wednesday, on a judge’s order, an 11-minute body camera video of the shooting of Danquirs Franklin. Here’s what we know — and don’t — about the events at a west Charlotte Burger King on the morning of March 25.

Who was Danquirs Franklin?

Franklin was 27 when he died. He was a Phillip O. Berry Academy graduate, then briefly attended art school. He worked as a fry cook to support his three children. A profile the Observer published in 2010 described Franklin as overcoming struggles early in life to get on a path toward success.

(This paragraph has been updated to more clearly reflect that this information is from a feature originally published in 2010.)

What have police said about what happened outside Burger King?

On March 25, two women called 911 to report a man with a gun at the Burger King who was apparently upset with someone who worked there. “He got a gun! He got a gun!” one caller said, adding that the man was pointing it at employees.

CMPD Officer Wende Kerl, responding to the calls, confronted Franklin in the restaurant’s parking lot. A two minute 20-second clip of her body camera video, released April 15 under a judge’s order, showed Franklin squatting beside an open car door. Kerl and a male officer ordered Franklin to put down a gun, initially not visible in the video, more than 15 times in the roughly 40 seconds before he was shot.

Franklin reached his right hand toward a pocket and pulled a gun out by the barrel, the video shows. He appeared to be lowering the gun to the ground when Kerl fired two shots. Franklin turned to face the officers. “You told me to ...” he said before slumping over. “I gotta pick up the gun,” Kerl said before the clip ends.

How have community members reacted?

Students at Northwest School of the Arts, blocks from the Burger King, walked out of class in protest two days after the shooting. Two nights of vigils at the restaurant for Franklin followed. CMPD officers have fired at more than 80 people since 2005, department data shows. Twenty-eight of them have been fatal.

Peaceful rallies and community gatherings followed the video’s April 15 release, in contrast to the protesters who surged through uptown Charlotte and blocked Interstate 85 after the September 2016 police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. CMPD initially withheld police video of the Scott shooting before eventually releasing it. Critics said police didn’t need to shoot either man and that CMPD had failed to adequately train officers to defuse confrontations without taking deadly force.

Was the shooting justified?

Academic experts on police use of force said the Franklin shooting was probably legally justified. But several told The Observer that they questioned whether the officers involved could have taken steps to avert bloodshed. CMPD Chief Kerr Putney has said the department is reviewing rules on when officers use lethal force.

What’s going on with the body camera footage?

The officer standing next to Kerl during the shooting, Larry Deal, did not record a body camera video even though CMPD officers are required to wear and use body cameras. Deal had been suspended for an undisclosed incident in February. His position might have offered a different angle of the shooting and of Kerl herself during it.

CMPD conducts internal and criminal investigations of each officer-involved shooting. It’s standard procedure for the department to send the complete criminal investigation file to the district attorney’s office to decide whether the officer will be charged. The DA’s office received the Franklin file Wednesday, spokeswoman Meghan McDonald confirmed, and typically finishes its reviews within 90 days.

Kerl’s body camera recorded at least 11 minutes at the Burger King, police said, and the full footage was shown to Charlotte City Council before part of it was released publicly. CMPD, explaining the two-minute release, said it had interpreted public records requests for footage of “the incident” to refer to activity immediately surrounding the shooting.

Superior Court Judge Lisa Bell, on Tuesday, ordered the release of the 11-minute video and said she would rule later whether to hold CMPD in contempt of court for initially withholding nearly nine minutes of it. The city argued that later portions of the unreleased footage contained recorded comments that could hurt Kerl’s chances of getting a fair trial if she is charged in the shooting.

The video, released Wednesday afternoon, included audio of Kerl saying “I shot him. He pulled a gun. He wouldn’t drop it ... I didn’t have a choice.” CMPD officers could not be seen giving first aid to Franklin. An emergency worker from the fire department was seen about four minutes after the shooting, appearing to treat Franklin’s wounds.

Here’s what we still don’t know

  • Will a judge hold CMPD in contempt of court?
  • What will the new portions of the video show? Putney told WSOC that it shows that officers “could have rendered more aid” to Franklin.
  • Putney has said dozens of cameras captured video at the Burger King at the time of the shooting. What do those show and will they be released? The Observer has filed a petition to have the additional video released, but no court date has been set.

Staff writer Jane Wester contributed.