Newly released body-cam footage shows Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Wende Kerl shouting for Danquirs Franklin, 27, to lower his weapon.
The video obtained by the Charlotte Observer then shows Kerl firing on Franklin, killing him. Footage also shows Franklin attempting to lower his gun, adhering to police commands.
Franklin reached his right hand toward his pocket, removing the gun by the barrel. As Franklin began lowering the weapon, Kerl opened fire, killing him. His last words, moments after being shot, “you told me to,” can be heard amidst the shouting of the officers.
While footage shows the moment at which Kerl fired on Franklin, the events leading up to the encounter remain unclear. Franklin, described as a father of three by loved ones, worked as a cook and lived with his children and his longtime girlfriend. According to acquaintances, Franklin came to the Burger King because he was upset with an employee there. The Observer reports that two women made separate calls to 911, stating they saw a man with a gun.
“A customer came up here and he walked behind the counter to fight an employee,” said the first 911 caller, who was inside the restaurant. “He got a gun! He got a gun!” she said shortly thereafter, telling the operator that he was pointing it at employees.
Kerl and another officer shout commands for Franklin to lower his weapon more than a dozen times during the video. Franklin, 27, was separated from Kerl by less than the length of a car, which had a passenger inside, who watched as the shooting unfolded.
Footage was released in response to a court petition from local media, against the objections of Kerl’s attorney and the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office.
City officials feared protests similar to those that followed the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, who was killed by police in September of 2016.
The cloud of uncertainty surrounding the Franklin case, which has already led to school walkouts and protests, will make a conviction unlikely, especially considering that police officers are rarely even charged in shooting cases like this. Professor Kenneth Williams from the South Texas College of Law told the Observer that prosecutors will find it difficult to prove that Kerl violated any law.
“I believe this would be an extremely difficult case in which to obtain a conviction if the officers are charged,” said Williams, who studies and writes on police use of force.
While refusing to give his opinion on Kerr’s conduct, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney admitted the footage was difficult to take in.
“[It’s] like a punch to the gut,” he said Monday. “It’s hard to watch. It’s hard to see because a life has been lost.”