Retired Raleigh officer: Community, city at crucial crossroads
Posted March 1
Raleigh, N.C. — As tensions simmer in a south Raleigh community where 24-year-old Akiel Rakim Lakeith Denkins was shot and killed Monday afternoon by a police officer, a retired officer offers a unique perspective.
Robert Wagner used to patrol the area near where the fatal shooting took place, including Bragg, East and Bloodworth streets. Wagner went on to produce and star in an award-winning film titled "Bragg N East," which looks at the dynamic relationship between police officers and the community they patrol.
Wagner was one of the first people to arrest Denkins years ago, and he spoke to him at length about turning his life around.
"I remember telling Akiel, 'Akiel, you've got everything going for you,'" Wagner said.
Wagner said that, when he heard about Denkins' death, his heart broke.
According to Wagner, the city of Raleigh is now at a crossroads when it comes to community and police relations.
"We can either go down a path of success and revitalization and become a strong community, or we can go down a road of deconstruction," he said. "That is the only way it is going to work, if we come together as cops and a community to rebuild the situation."
Wagner, who worked for the Raleigh Police Department for seven years, said he used to give arrest citations and respond to 911 calls. But soon, he learned to use another tool - one he did not carry on his duty belt.
"Unconditional love," Wagner said. "I remember being flicked off, cussed at, spat at, all those other things, but there was that pursuit of love."
Gradually, Wagner got to know those he served and protected in the community. And after retiring from the force, he made his award-winning film about his experiences.
"I love everybody here," he said of the neighborhood he once patrolled.
Coincidentally, the name of the film, "Bragg N East," is the same intersection where Denkins was killed.
The officer who shot Denkins has been identified as 29-year-old D.C. Twiddy. A seven-year veteran of the Raleigh Police Department, he has been placed on administrative leave, pending the completion of internal and outside investigations.