This article was written by and from the viewpoint of Keri Williams, and provided to The Charlotte Observer.
Officer Wende Kerl, who shot and killed Danquirs Franklin on March 25th in a Burger King in West Charlotte, will not be charged. I believe that’s good news for us all.
Two weeks ago, on August 2nd, my husband of 17 years was shot and killed by a CMPD officer. My husband had been holding my sister and me at gunpoint in the corner of a room where we could not be seen from the windows. He made us beg for our lives, said he was going to kill us, and shot my sister through her legs.
My husband was a muscular, ex-soldier – clearly suffering a delusional and manic mental break – and there was no real chance we could take the gun and turn it on him. But we had to try. We fought back and wrestled with him for the gun. This enabled my sister to break free and run for help.
As a result, my husband stood and walked out into an open area of the room to see where she’d gone. A couple yards away from me, he turned and raised his gun. I had no doubt he was about to make good on his threat to shoot me. I had nowhere to run and no way to protect myself. That’s when the sliding glass door behind my husband shattered and he fell to the floor. It took several moments for me to realize he’d been shot by police.
I have yet to meet the brave man, CMPD officer John Juhasz, who saved my life. But I think of him often. It took incredible skill and courage to pull the trigger. Had he delayed, even one or two seconds, my husband would have pulled his gun’s trigger first.
As I read the news about Officer Kerl’s case, this is the question that haunts me: What if Officer Juhasz had not trusted his instincts and second guessed himself? What if he’d hesitated because he thought of Officer Kerl’s investigation and considered the enormous personal risk he was taking? By taking that shot he risked public scorn, his career, his retirement, his family, and even criminal charges.
The whole sequence of events – from my husband standing, pacing across the room and turning around, to him aiming the gun – took only a few seconds. My life depended on Officer Juhasz’s skill, instincts, and courage. Had he stopped to think of himself even for two or three seconds, that would have cost me my everything.
This devastating tragedy has changed my life, and my children’s lives forever. It will take years – perhaps a lifetime – to fully unravel the situation in my mind. But what I do know is this: When law enforcement responds to a dangerous situation we need them to focus on assessing the threat and responding, not second-guessing their instincts out of fear.
In some cases, with the hindsight of slow-motion video playback, we may interpret the situation differently than the officer did at that crucial moment. Many are saying video footage does not show a lethal threat though Danquirs was armed. Perhaps. But officers are not superhuman. They don’t have the ability to do an instant replay or zoom in. They aren’t infallible and have to make split second decisions. That doesn’t mean they deserve to be vilified and accused of ill-motives.
I for one am willing to give Officer Kerl the benefit of the doubt that she acted in good faith and did her job to the best of her abilities just as I believe Officer Juhasz did.
While the unfortunate death of anyone – including Danquirs and my husband – is a horrible tragedy, we must not always assume the worst of the officers who acted in the situation. By vilifying officers who act in good faith we are promoting a defensive police culture that could easily cost someone their lives. It very well could have cost me mine.