CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - After Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police (CMPD) released body camera footage of a fatal officer involved shooting Monday, many people and groups in the community are asking more questions and calling for peace as demonstrations are planned across the Queen City.
Danquirs Franklin was shot by veteran CMPD officer Wende Kerl around 9 a.m. on March 25 in the parking lot of the Burger King on Beatties Ford Road. The video from Officer Kerl’s body-worn camera was released by police on Monday afternoon at 2 p.m.
At least seven protests were planned for Monday night in response to the video’s release, according to CMPD Chief Kerr Putney. Council members and religious leaders from the community attended the various demonstrations to call for peace and calm.
“We expect it to be peaceful," said Putney outside the Government Center in uptown hours before the video was released, adding, “We are prepared for the worst but hoping for the best."
Putney reiterated there is “clear and compelling evidence that Mr. Franklin was armed” at the time of the shooting.
Charlotte city leaders - who had not yet seen the video - gathered with Chief Putney at the Government Center to call for a calm and measured community reaction. Mayor Vi Lyles was visibly emotional as she called for calm across the city, urging a response that would be respectful after the video was made public.
“We owe it to the community for them to see what has been recorded,” said Lyles. “We will all work together - protest is important - people have the right to do that.”
Hours after the video was released, Lyles said at a City Council meeting that she had watched the video and that it was “tragic.”
She said the city will continue listening sessions to hear from residents, and that some council members would be leaving the meeting to go to different community gatherings related to the shooting.
NC House Representative Chaz Beasley from Mecklenburg County released a statement calling the video “troubling.”
Soon after the video was released, demonstrators gathered at the scene of the March shooting. While some held signs criticizing CMPD, others called for peace and for more answers.
"The group of people that are out here... people aren't out here for violence, people are out here because they want transparency, they want accountability, they want good government," said one man at the scene.
“We definitely have to react to this,” another woman said, “This is a problem that we keep seeing over and over and over in Charlotte.”
Dozens of people, both individuals and people representing different community activist groups, gathered in Uptown Charlotte’s Marshall Park Monday evening for a demonstration focusing on one thing - change.
“If we don’t work together, nothing’s going to change,” a protester said from the microphone.
People held signs and lit candles. City council members Larken Egleston and Braxton Winston were present to listen in.
“We as the people of Charlotte need to learn to come together to work together to make Charlotte the best city it can be,” another speaker said.
“I felt like there could have been another resolution, that didn’t have to be the end of his life,” Justin Perry said of the shooting.
A woman who identified herself as Franklin’s cousin said it was important for the protest to be peaceful.
“He was a peaceful person,” Alexis Jackson said. “It was a peaceful rally.”
She wants there to be a conversation about policing in the community.
“Don’t be so quick to kill, because there’s other ways we can connect in the community,” she said.
“We become reactive instead of active,” activist Gemini Boyd said.
Many are calling for this kind of community connection to continue moving forward.
“I think we really have to have a conversation about consistent accountability of what it means to deescalate,” Perry said.
There were five “stop the violence” rallies held around the Charlotte neighbor in different neighborhoods. There were gatherings planned at Nations Ford Community Church, Little Rock Apartments on Leake Street, Tom Hunter Park for Hidden Valley and Derita, Billingsville Park for Grier Heights and at Pegram Street.
The gathering at Tom Hunter Park had a basketball court close by where boys were playing ball together. Organizers said that is what they are hoping for more young people in the city -- to play together in stead of fighting.
While the organizers said they were not going to give police a “pass,” they noted that the violence within their community is more detrimental than police involvement so they called for a focus to stop the violence within their communities.
Johnson & Wales University released a statement to students about the shooting and the planned demonstrations that read, in part, “The safety of our students, both on and off campus, is our highest concern. If you should decide to join a demonstration or discussion, please stay aware of your surroundings and keep yourself out of harm’s way.”
The university also told students that confidential counseling was available for anyone seeking support.
SAFE Coalition NC also released a statement that questions why Franklin was shot. The group said, in there eyes, the video shows that he was complying when the shots were fired.
“The police commands were not to lay on the ground, or put your hands on your head but were to drop the weapon. A weapon that was stored in the pocket of his hoodie. Danquirs reluctantly complies by acknowledging that he has heard their command. He grabs the gun by the barrel instead of the handle which is how you would hand over the weapon to show you’re not attempting to fire it,” the statement read. “When he gets shot after complying to the orders, Danquirs ask why he was shot for complying. Very sad situation that could have been avoided.”
WBTV spoke to former CMPD officer Walter Bowers. After watching video of the shooting, he said he believes Officer Kerl’s actions will ultimately be deemed justified.
“In this particular video, you have a person that is sitting in the passenger seat that is certainly in a dangerous situation,” Bowers explained. “And then they will also look at the variety of circumstances. Obviously, the type of call they’re responding to, the fact that they did give verbal commands, and unfortunately there just was not enough time for the officer to do anything else with a weapon being that close to a third-party and also that close to the officers involved.”
CMPD said the District Attorney’s Office will be making that decision in about two weeks. During that time, Kerl will remain on administrative leave. The department is also planning at least two community conversations to engage the public during the week.