Family of man killed by CMPD officer in Burger King parking lot files lawsuit against city

Published: Jun. 12, 2020 at 6:12 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The family of Danquirs Franklin, who was shot and killed in a Burger King parking lot by CMPD officers last year, has filed a lawsuit against the city and the officer who shot him.

Franklin was shot by CMPD Officer Wende Kerl on March 25, 2019, in the parking lot of the Burger King on Beatties Ford Road. Officials say Kerl responded to the scene after a call about an armed person in the restaurant wanting to fight an employee. Franklin was outside the restaurant when officers arrived.

The lawsuit details the events taking place in Franklin’s life leading up to that day, specifically trouble with the mother of his children and a co-worker at the Burger King where she worked who she was allegedly dating.

RELATED: Family of man fatally shot by CMPD officer in Burger King parking details what ‘set him off’

In the lawsuit, the lawyer for Franklin’s family says Officer Wende Kerl “exhibited willful and wanton and reckless disregard for Franklin’s rights and safety - killing him for following her instructions.”

The lawsuit describes the moments before Officer Kerl killed Franklin, stating Franklin was praying with store manager and ordained minister Timothy Grier, who was sitting in the passenger seat of a car, with his head on Grier’s chest as the officers arrived.

“Contrary to common sense and common training, Kerl crossed in front of Deal and stopped in a completely uncovered position just beyond the parking space between Grier’s car and the other vehicle, pointing her gun at Franklin. Kerl was not wearing her ballistic vest,” the lawsuit states. “All of these movements and her perspective and position can be seen from her body camera and from the video from the CMPD tower camera.”

WBTV Chief Kerr Putney for comment on this new lawsuit.

“We’re gonna let that play out, can’t really get into the specifics there,” Chief Putney said. “It’s something our attorneys are working through and again I can understand a family seeking justice.”

The District Attorney’s Office also provided the following statement from DA Spencer Merriweather.

"Any loss of life in our community is and will always be gut-wrenching, and when that loss of life is the result of an interaction with police, my office is compelled to undertake a thorough review of the case, guided by the evidence and law alone. Nevertheless, the review conducted by my office considers only criminal culpability, as it is not within my authority to determine the prudence of police tactics or directives, and no finding in my reviews of any officer-involved shooting is intended to rule out a potential resolution in civil court.”

The lawsuit states CMPD found Kerl did not violate any department policy, and that City Manager Marcus Jones refused to overturn that decision after the Citizen Review Board found otherwise.

This was the second time in recent years CRB’s recommendation was ignored by the city manager.

“[Kerl] panicked when she saw the handle of the gun emerge from [Franklin’s] clothing, and shot him as he held the gun with only his thumb and forefinger, the barrel pointed toward him as he was putting the gun to the ground,” the lawsuit reads. “Kerl failed utterly to recognize that Franklin was doing exactly what she ordered him to do when she shot him dead, and then she failed to attempt any life saving measures.”

Read the lawsuit in its entirety below:

The Citizen’s Review Board (CRB) announced in December, 2019 that they were reviewing CMPD’s decision that the fatal officer-involved shooting in March was justified.

CMPD released the full-length body-cam video of the fatal shooting, showing the moments after Franklin was shot, in a release posted to the CMPD newsroom.

In the body-cam video, officers Kerl and Larry Deal drew their guns immediately upon getting out of their vehicles. Between the two officers, Franklin was instructed to either “drop the weapon” or “put the gun on the ground” at least 20 times.

Kerl shot Franklin at least twice, according to officials. The autopsy shows Franklin died of gunshot wounds to the abdomen. Kerl was placed on administrative leave and then administrative assignment following the shooting.

In August, 2019, District Attorney Spencer Merriweather announced that Officer Kerl would not be charged in Franklin’s death. CMPD then did an internal review of the case and determined that Kerl followed department policy.

RELATED: Friends remember man shot by CMPD officer as ‘caring soul’

The CRB said in its initial review, it initially found “substantial evidence of error” in CMPD’s determination that the shooting was justified.

The CRB held a hearing, described as “trial-like” proceedings, on January 28. CMPD and Franklin’s family were both there, represented by their respective attorneys.

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