RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A white North Carolina officer fatally shot a black man during a struggle when the man pulled a gun from his waistband and then reached toward the officer’s weapon, police said Thursday.
Officer D.C. Twiddy had been trying to arrest 24-year-old Akiel Denkins on Monday when the two got into a struggle, according to a report from Raleigh Police Chief C.L. Deck-Brown released Thursday. The report, which is the first detailed description of the shooting in a predominantly black neighborhood of modest homes south of downtown Raleigh, gives the following account:
Twiddy stopped his cruiser when he saw Denkins because he knew the man had an outstanding warrant on felony drug charges. Denkins started to run, ducking between two houses and jumping a fence into a home’s backyard.
Twiddy slipped on loose gravel as he tried to catch Denkins, then hurdled the fence and confronted the suspect as he tried to climb a second fence. Denkins stopped and turned toward Twiddy. As the two struggled, Twiddy said Denkins reached for a handgun in the front of his waistband. That’s when Denkins fired several shots.
The two continued to struggle, and Twiddy then felt Denkins’ hand or arm “make contact” with his weapon.
“Officer Twiddy, fearing that Mr. Denkins was either going to shoot him or attempt to take his duty weapon, stepped back and fired additional shots at Mr. Denkins, who still had the firearm in his hand,” the report said.
At that point, Denkins collapsed and dropped the gun, which had previously been reported stolen.
There is no dash cam video of the shooting because it happened away from the officer’s patrol car, and because the car’s blue lights weren’t turned on, which is necessary to activate the camera.
Separately, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman also said Thursday that a preliminary autopsy shows Denkins was shot in his right chest, left forearm, right upper arm, and right shoulder. The gunshots caused injuries to Denkins’ heart and lungs.
The medical examiner is still looking into how and where the bullets entered 24-year-old Akiel Denkins’ body. When asked if Denkins was shot in the back, as one witness suggested after the shooting, she said only that the medical examiner’s office was not authorized to release that information yet because information is still being reviewed internally.
That witness, Claresa Williams, said she saw the confrontation develop and heard six gunshots but did not see Denkins fall from the bullets.
Twiddy has been placed on administrative leave.
About 20 people milled around calmly early Thursday evening at the makeshift memorial next to the shooting scene. Kasual Walker, 33, said she knew Denkins for several years and didn’t believe Denkins was drawing a gun on the officer.
“Akiel is not one who’s going to shoot. I think he was running and the officer got mad,” Walker said. “The officers are trying to come up with solutions to cover his butt,” he added, referring to Twiddy.
Irv Joyner, a lawyer representing the NAACP, said he is helping Denkins’ family interview witnesses. People will accept the truth when all the facts are known, said Joyner, a professor of law at North Carolina Central University in Durham.
“Our community is resilient and they’re going to accept the truth,” he said. “So we will be looking at that as soon as it is turned over to us.”
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