CHARLOTTE, N.C. — “You told me to.”
Those were the dying words of a North Carolina man who was shot by police as he followed orders to drop the gun he had in his pocket, body camera footage shows.
Footage of the March 25 death of Danquirs Napoleon Franklin, 27, was released Friday by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. The video was released on the order of Mecklenburg County Superior Judge Donnie Hoover, who was responding to a petition by local media.
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Prosecutors and the attorney representing Officer Wende Kerl objected to the release. Assistant District Attorney Bill Bunting argued the release could impact the ongoing criminal investigation into the shooting, WSOC in Charlotte reported. Defense attorney Jeremy Smith cited concerns for Kerl's safety.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officials said dispatchers received two 911 calls around 9 a.m. the morning of the shooting, the calls coming within two minutes of one another. The calls came from a Burger King located on Beatties Ford Road in Charlotte.
"The first caller frantically said she needed police quickly because the individual entered the store, walked behind the counter with a gun and was pointing it at an employee," a police department statement said. "The second caller frantically said she needed police because an individual had approached her vehicle while she was waiting for food in the parking lot of the business and pulled out a gun."
Listen to the 911 call from inside Burger King, courtesy of WSOC.
Kerl and another officer, Larry Deal, responded to the scene, where they saw Franklin squatting next to the open front passenger door of a burgundy Honda Accord parked outside the fast food restaurant.
"A short time later, Officer Kerl perceived an imminent, deadly threat and subsequently fired her department issued firearm two times, striking Mr. Franklin," police officials said. "He was transported to Atrium Health where he was pronounced deceased a short time later."
Kerl’s own body camera footage shows Franklin never pointed the weapon at anyone during the fatal confrontation. He appeared to be following the officers’ orders to put his weapon on the ground.
The 2-minute, 20-second video begins with footage of Kerl driving up to the Burger King. She does not get out of her car until the midpoint of the recording.
Watch the entirety of the body camera footage below. Warning: The footage is graphic and shows Danquirs Franklin’s final moments. Viewer discretion is advised.
As soon as she is out of the car, she joins Deal in ordering Franklin to show his hands. Franklin is not yet visible on the camera footage. After screaming for Franklin to let them see his hands several times, Kerl begins to move in front of Deal.
“I’m crossing. I’m crossing,” Kerl says, letting Deal know she’s entering his line of fire.
At this point, Kerl is about a car length away from Franklin, who squats by the open car door. Another man sits inside the car.
“Put the gun down now!” Kerl and Deal shout at Franklin, who is approached by a Burger King employee.
“He’s got a gun. He’s got a gun,” Kerl says.
Watch Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney discuss body worn cameras below.
The officers order the female employee to get out of the way. They continue to scream at Franklin, ordering him to drop the weapon.
“I heard you the first (unintelligible) time,” Franklin appears to say calmly.
The gun is still not visible on the body camera footage.
“Put it on the ground!” Kerl shouts one last time.
Franklin’s right hand appears to go into his pocket. He pulls out a handgun by its barrel and lowers it to the ground.
As soon as the handgun is visible, Kerl fires her service weapon twice into Franklin’s body. He turns his face toward the officer.
“You told me to put it …,” Franklin says, the rest of his words swallowed by the officers’ continued screams for him to drop the gun.
At that point, the weapon can be seen already on the pavement.
A shocked-looking Franklin, grimacing in pain, glances into the car once more before slumping against the open car door.
“Shots fired. Shots fired,” Kerl says into her body-worn radio. Deal can be heard radioing the need for medical assistance as someone screams from somewhere near the restaurant.
Kerl and Deal approach Franklin, who has slumped onto the pavement. They order the man sitting in the car, who tells them he’s the “GM,” or general manager, to put his hands on the dashboard as Kerl picks up Franklin’s gun from near his still body.
That’s when the publicly released footage ends.
Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles urged calm in the community in advance of the release of the police footage, according to WSOC.
“It’s another really sad moment and (a) reminder that the responsibilities of law enforcement are, and will always be, immense,” Mayor Lyles said. “In the blink of an eye, their jobs require an instantaneous decision, and that’s something none of us should take lightly.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said his department expected there would be protests, but that he expected they would be peaceful.
“We expect this to be people voicing their opinion,” Putney said.
When asked about his own reaction to watching the video, he described it as being “like a punch to the gut.”
"It's hard to watch. It's hard to see. Because a life has been lost," Putney said, according to WSOC. "I hope you'll do what we're doing and pray for Miss Franklin and her family. Pray for our officers, whose lives have been destroyed as well. Come together as a community and be heard. But be lawful."
Peaceful protests did pop up around Charlotte in the aftermath of the video’s release, including one hosted by the NAACP’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg branch and UNC Charlotte that NAACP officials said was “in memory of Danquirs Franklin and every stolen life.”
During that event, Corine Mack, the president of the local NAACP chapter, said that priorities must change.
“I think that Chief Putney is a good and decent human being,” Mack said. “But I also know that one man can’t change the hearts and minds of 1,800 officers. Especially those who’ve been reared in the root of hate in this country.
“All cops are not bad cops. But if you’re a solid cop, you are now accountable for that bad cop’s actions. We’re asking for folks to be honest and forthright, to come forward when they see wrong. To speak out when they see wrong. To ensure that the lives that we’re talking about get the same fair treatment as anyone else.”
At another protest, Mack told the crowd the video made her "sick to her stomach," WSOC reported.
“When I saw that video, I wanted to hurt somebody,” Mack said. “If I felt that way, imagine how the family felt.”
Franklin’s cousin, James Barnett, spoke to the news station about watching the video.
Up until this point we've been silent and only wanted the truth to come out, but we also wanted to see it because it was the last moments of his life," Barnett said.
Scott MacLatchie, a police attorney with experience in officer-involved shootings, told WSOC a key factor was the amount of time officers gave Franklin prior to firing a gun. He pointed out that it took more than 40 seconds for Franklin to follow the officers' orders.
“He wasn’t cooperating for a long time,” Franklin said.
Kerl, who has been a police officer in Charlotte since April 1995, was placed on administrative leave while the investigation is conducted. According to police officials, an internal investigation is being done parallel to the criminal investigation into the officer's actions.
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