Charlotte police officer who shot Danquirs Franklin said she ‘didn’t have a choice’
After Danquirs Franklin was shot, he lay on the ground as police officers appeared to struggle trying to request medical assistance and call for backup over the radio, new bodycam footage shows.
The full 11-minute recording captured by Charlotte, North Carolina, officer Wende Kerl’s bodycam on March 25 was released Wednesday under a judge’s order. It includes the previously released footage of Franklin’s shooting and shows the events that took place in the nearly nine minutes after Kerl’s weapon was fired.
After Kerl picked up Franklin’s gun from the ground, she and another officer stood feet away from him. They appeared to grow frustrated as they tried to use their radios and the police frequency was busy for some time.
“I can’t get on the radio,” Kerl said about a minute after she shot Franklin.
The officers were able to get on the radio about 20 seconds later. Kerl stood close to Franklin, waiting and directing people away from the Burger King parking lot and the building’s entrance. The video does not show any officers rendering aid to Franklin.
“He pulled the gun,” Kerl tells the other officer as they wait for medics.
“Yes, he did. I know, he … are you OK, Wende?” a voice believed to be the other officer asks her.
“I’m alright,” she replied.
About four minutes passed before medics arrived to the Burger King parking lot and began treating Franklin, the video shows.
“All I know it’s I shot because he had the gun in his hand,” Kerl tells another officer later.
When medics began treating Franklin, Kerl was directed away from him. In the next five minutes of the video, Kerl enters a patrol car and sits there until a police supervisor arrives. During that time, she briefly talked with another officer and tried to call her husband.
“I didn’t have a choice” she said while sitting inside the patrol car.
After the other officer tried to comfort her, she asked if Franklin was alive. At least one officer said he didn’t know.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said in a tweet that the video is “just one piece of evidence among many others to be considered in determining whether the shooting was justified. Both criminal and internal investigations are continuing.”
Police initially released a 2½-minute clip of the shooting to court. On Tuesday, a judge ordered police to release the full bodycam video of the incident.
It’s unclear whether a judge will hold the police department in contempt of court.
Franklin’s killing has sparked criticism over the officers’ behavior and also fueled questions about what authorities are doing to improve relations between police and the community.
Here’s what the shorter version of video shows
The previously released clip opens with Kerl driving to the scene and continues as she arrives at a Burger King parking lot to find Franklin squatting beside a red Honda Accord with the door open. She and another office approach him, guns drawn, and begin telling him to drop the weapon or put it on the ground.
“Sir, put the gun gown!” Kerl tells Franklin.
Officer Larry Deal adds, “Put it down! Put it down now!”
Franklin appears dazed, barely acknowledging the officers, almost as if he doesn’t hear them. He focuses his attention on someone inside the car and looks down and at the car door. At one point, a bystander walks within a few feet of Franklin and the officers order her to get out of the way.
After being told to drop the weapon or put it on the ground about 20 times, Franklin’s right hand slowly appears and Kerl shoots him twice.
The video goes on to show how Franklin appears to say something to the effect of, “You told me to…” before collapsing into the door and rolling on his side, onto the asphalt. The clip ends as Kerl leans down to pick up Franklin’s gun.
Why were the videos released?
As the city was gearing up for more protests last week, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department released a 2½-minute clip of the March 25 shooting to court.
Police initially released the 2½-minute clip under a previous court order after local TV stations petitioned the court for the video. But the Charlotte City Council reviewed a longer version of the video before the shorter clip was made public.
Charlotte Councilwoman Dimple Ajmera told WBTV that city council members saw an additional nine minutes of footage.
“We owe our residents the video that we as a council had an opportunity to view,” Ajmera said.
After learning there was additional footage, a WBTV reporter filed a motion asking police to explain why the full video was not released.
During Tuesday’s hearing, a judge ordered the police department to release the full footage by Wednesday afternoon.
Assistant City Attorney Jessica Battle said in the hearing the police department had “acted in good faith” and released footage it believed satisfied the court order. Battle noted wording of the request had not indicated the release of the full video, only the moments “immediately after” the shooting, WBTV reported.
On the morning of March 25, employees reported that a man came into the Burger King acting suspiciously and making employees feel uneasy, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said.
At least one 911 caller reported an armed man, telling the dispatcher, “He got a gun. He has a gun. He’s pointing it at employees.” The caller said the man initially walked behind the counter and tried to fight a Burger King employee. Later in the call, she is heard urging someone to lock the doors.
Another caller said she was in the drive-thru when she saw a man reach into his waistband, spurring employees to run. She drove off before she could determine if he had a gun, she said.
Officers arrived minutes later and engaged a man in the parking lot. After he refused to heed multiple commands to drop his weapon, Kerl, a 24-year veteran who works in the police department’s metro division, opened fire, police said.
“One of the first arriving officers perceived a lethal threat, fired at least one round, striking the subject,” the chief said at the time.
The man, later identified as Franklin, was transported to Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. A gun was recovered at the scene, Putney said. Kerl was placed on paid administrative leave.
The department’s internal affairs bureau is conducting a parallel investigation into the shooting.