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What’s a cop supposed to do?

Charlotte body cam video slowed down and enlarged shows man putting gun down

Video shows Danquirs Franklin putting gun down before Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Wende Kerl fatally shoots and kills him.
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Video shows Danquirs Franklin putting gun down before Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Wende Kerl fatally shoots and kills him.

It looks to many Americans these days that white police officers are gunning down black people cavalierly if not callously, without legal justification.

There’s a good reason some people see it that way. It has happened.

The black man in North Charleston shot in the back repeatedly by the white cop he was running from. Laquon McDonald gunned down on a Chicago street; the shooting officer proven a liar by the video. We know this didn’t only start happening when cell phones became cameras.

But that’s not what happens most of the time when someone is shot by a cop.

Most of the time what happens is, an officer responds to a 911 call. Let’s say, a woman reporting there’s a man inside a Burger King acting erratically and pointing a gun.

As the officer speeds to the scene, another call comes from the restaurant. A second woman says a man she thinks has a gun ran up to her car.

The officer arrives, sees the man crouched next to a car, and yells.

“Sir, put the gun down.”

“Drop the gun.”

“Drop the weapon.”

She repeatedly orders the man to drop the gun and another officer does the same. Seventeen or more times, the man is told. Finally, he responds.

“I heard you the first time.”

No gun is dropped.

His right arm moves forward, the gun is suddenly seen, and the officer fires.

“You told me to...” the man says, not finishing his sentence before slumping to the ground.

What’s a cop supposed to do? That’s what I thought as I watched the CMPD video released by court order Monday of Danquirs Franklin being shot and killed by officer Wende Kerl.

News accounts decide the case. One says the video shows police “shooting and killing a man” who was “trying to put his gun down.”

A reporter tweets, “if you slow or pause the video, it appears Franklin takes the gun ... a small pistol ... by the top of its barrel ...”

That job is done for us. The video is cranked down in slow-motion and zoomed-in on the gun so we can carefully consider how it is held, and the movement of the man’s hand.

Just one problem: The officer wasn’t able to “slow or pause the video” because it wasn’t a video. The officer wasn’t able to zoom-in to contemplate the man’s fingertip grip because she wasn’t watching it on a computer. For her it was real-life, in real-time, as she faced a man she was told had been acting erratically, threatening people with a gun.

A real gun, even if it was only “a small pistol.”

The case is still under investigation. The officer could still be charged.

It’s tragic that Danquirs Franklin is dead. Tragic, that he went to that restaurant with a gun, threatened people, ignored repeated commands to drop the weapon and then when he responded chose to wisecrack instead of saying “OK I’m dropping it.”

It’s tragic, but those were his decisions.

When someone grabs a gun and puts innocent lives in danger, they stack a deadly deck against themselves. A cop is then expected to become supra-human and save the day.

But they’re just plain-human police officers.

Charlotte Observer contributor Keith Larson’s regular podcasts can be heard on TheLarsonPage.com. Email: klarson@thelarsonpage.com Twitter @TheLarsonPage
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