Crime & Courts

Officer who shot, killed Danquirs Franklin will not be charged, district attorney says

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Wende Kerl will not be charged in connection with the death of Danquirs Franklin at a northwest Charlotte Burger King in March, Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather announced Wednesday morning.

Kerl shot Franklin multiple times, according to police and the 27-year-old Charlotte man’s autopsy.

Kerl, who was hired by CMPD in 1995, had been on administrative leave and then administrative assignment since the shooting.

In a video recorded by her body camera, Franklin seemed to be lowering a gun toward the ground when Kerl shot him. She was responding to 911 calls about a man with a gun behaving in a threatening way at Burger King.

Kerl told investigators that just before she shot Franklin, she saw him pull out a gun, and she believed he was on his way toward pointing the gun toward someone at the scene when she fired her weapon. Franklin was near a parked car with someone sitting in it, so officers said they were worried for that person’s safety along with their own safety.

CMPD Chief Kerr Putney told reporters Wednesday morning that CMPD detectives conducted a thorough and “very objective” investigation into their colleague’s actions.

“The determination was that it was ... actually within the parameters of law,” he said. An internal investigation into whether Kerl followed CMPD’s policies and procedures is ongoing, he said.

What brought Franklin to Burger King

Franklin had come to the Burger King after getting upset with the mother of his children, who worked there, investigators learned.

She told investigators that she had recently ended her relationship with Franklin and was dating a coworker. The woman and her Burger King coworkers are identified only by their initials in the district attorney’s report.

Franklin called her that morning and said he was coming to the restaurant, she told investigators.

“(She) knew he had a gun and told her manager to lock the doors ... she was concerned for everyone else’s safety,” according to the district attorney’s report.

When Franklin arrived at Burger King, he chased the coworker she had been dating around the kitchen and pulled out a gun, she told investigators. Franklin tried to run after the man when he left the premises, but the woman stopped him.

“She attempted to calm (Franklin) down, but he ultimately slung her to the ground,” according to the district attorney’s report.

General manager’s intervention

Franklin went outside, where he encountered the Burger King general manager sitting in the passenger seat of a car near the restaurant’s doors, according to the report. The general manager told investigators his wife had driven him to the restaurant after they got a call that his employee was having problems with the father of her children.

“While in the parking lot, he observed (Franklin) kicking and banging on the door to the restaurant,” Merriweather wrote, citing an interview with the general manager. “He described (Franklin) as being in a total rage.”

The general manager asked Franklin what was going on, he told investigators. The general manager also works in ministry, he told investigators, and he began to pray with Franklin just before police arrived.

Franklin appeared to be in a daze and wasn’t responding to the officers’ commands, the general manager told investigators. He urged Franklin “not to do anything stupid” and then watched as Franklin slowly pulled out a gun.

“(The general manager) explained that (Franklin) did not reach aggressively, but he would not speculate on (Franklin’s) mindset,” Merriweather wrote.

Merriweather referred to the general manager’s statement — “I didn’t know if I was getting ready to get shot or whatever” — as he concluded the state would not win a case if it tried to prove Kerl was unreasonable in thinking she faced an imminent threat. With that in mind, he wrote, the district attorney’s office will not seek charges.

Franklin’s mental health history

The mother of Franklin’s children told investigators Franklin had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and she believed he was taking his medication, according to the district attorney’s report.

Franklin had threatened to shoot her and then spent several days at a local behavioral health facility a few weeks before he was killed, she told investigators.

She had hidden his gun when he went into the facility, she told investigators, but she was keeping it in her car and Franklin found it the day before the shooting, according to the report.

In Kerl’s body camera video, a woman walked close to Franklin while he was in the parking lot, and police told her to get back. Apparently, that was the mother of his children, who later told investigators she had gone outside to try to calm him down.

“She stated that it seemed like the police knew they were going to shoot him ... she was inside when she heard two gunshots,” Merriweather wrote.

The other body camera

The other CMPD officer who was close to Franklin when Kerl fired shots was apparently not wearing his body camera, even though CMPD officers are required to wear and use their cameras. Putney said shortly after the shooting that this would be investigated.

Officer Larry Deal’s body camera was found on his traffic vest, which was in the passenger seat of his car, according to a photo included with the district attorney’s report.

Deal told investigators he had worked the previous night at the Spectrum Center directing traffic, according to the district attorney’s report. He had a second camera, but it was malfunctioning, he told investigators.

Deal’s actions will be reviewed during CMPD’s internal investigation, which is ongoing, CMPD spokesman Rob Tufano said Wednesday.

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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.