Raleigh officer-involved shooting sparks protest, demands for justice
Posted March 1, 2016 11:28 a.m. EST
Updated March 1, 2016 10:32 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — A spokesman for the Raleigh Police Protective Association said Tuesday that he and his team are fully supporting the actions of a Raleigh police officer who was involved in a fatal shooting Monday afternoon.
Senior Officer D.C. Twiddy shot and killed a drug suspect fleeing arrest behind a home at 117 S. East Street, near the intersection of Bragg and East streets, police said.
The State Bureau of Investigation, which is reviewing the shooting, identified the victim as 24-year-old Akiel Rakim Lakeith Denkins of Raleigh.
Denkins, who was black, had been convicted three times on drug offenses, according to the state Department of Public Safety. There were pending charges against him from last fall of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and probation violations.
Sources have told WRAL News that Denkins was a known gang member.
The 29-year-old Twiddy, who is white, has been employed with the department since 2009. He has been placed on administrative leave, pending the completion of internal and outside investigations.
"(Twiddy) has our full legal representation," Rick Armstrong, the vice president of a Teamsters local said. "Our local union and the Raleigh Police Protective Association is 100 percent behind him. We support the officer and believe he will be exonerated when all the facts come out."
A gun was found "in close proximity to" Denkins, Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown said. Police have not said whether the gun belonged to him or whether he threatened Twiddy.
"It is a very unfortunate circumstance. It was a terrible situation, but we believe the officer did what he had to do to defend himself and protect himself," Armstrong said.
Witnesses at the scene on Monday said a foot chase began when the officer approached Denkins. He ignored Twiddy's demands to stop, a witness said, and the men jumped over a fence before the shooting.
Denkins had two sons, ages 2 and 3, and was working on his GED through the Neighbor to Neighbor program.
Currently, the Raleigh Police Internal Affairs unit is conducting its own administrative investigation into whether any departmental policies were violated. By law, the department is required to provide the city manager with a report of their findings within five business days.
People take to the streets in protest
A large group of peaceful protesters blocked streets in downtown Raleigh Tuesday evening as many were heading home from work.
"There were no incidents and no arrests in connection with the march," said Raleigh police spokesperson Jim Sughrue.
Protesters said they feel hunted by police and ignored by their leaders. Marchers walked and chanted through downtown Raleigh, moving past the courthouse and blocking busy intersections.
"We are trying to get a good conclusion and find a positive way to settle this right here, because it is very unfair," said protester Larry Jones.
Mashanda Truesdale joined the march with someone other than Denkins on her mind.
"I am a mother, I have a son, and this is going to mean something to him one day," she said.
As the crowd moved, police blocked the flow of traffic to ensure safety but did not block the flow of the march as protestors screamed for justice.
"Hopefully we get justice and the officer that fired the shot, he will be fired and penalized," Jones said.
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said she understands the public's need and right to know more about the shooting, and she will release information as soon as she can.
"We know that this is a situation that evokes a lot of emotion, and people have a right to come out and have their voice heard about their concerns of what is going on," Freeman said. "We hope that will be done in a way that is calming and allows people to protest without violence so we really can focus on getting to the bottom of what happened in this case.
"It is the responsibility of the district attorney in these cases to make a determination as to whether the use of force was justified under the law or not," Freeman said. "We want to make a good decision based on a complete investigation. We are really asking for the public's cooperation, but also their patience as we go through this process."
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane issued a statement Tuesday afternoon that echoed the sentiment.
"Yesterday, lives were changed, and we stand here, both present and past elected leaders of the community, to ask for calm, prayer and patience," she said. "Any loss of life, regardless of circumstance, is heartbreaking, and we offer our sincere condolences to all of those involved. We understand the need and desire of the community for information to be able to make sense of yesterday’s events. We are committed to ensuring information is shared as it becomes available. Please join us in calm, prayer and patience and please keep all of those involved in this tragedy in your thoughts and prayers.”
Monday's shooting was the first involving a Raleigh police officer in more than a year.
Marcel Leroy Jordan was shot once in the torso on Dec. 17, 2014, at Family Preservation Services of North Carolina on Barrett Drive after he refused to drop a pair of scissors as he moved toward two officers, police said. A stun gun was initially used but was ineffective, police said. No charges were filed against the officer, and Jordan survived.
NAACP calls for 'full and impartial investigation'
Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, said the investigation into the shooting needs to be dealt with out in the open.
"A warrant, nor an arrest record are a license to kill, so we have to ask the right questions," Barber said. "In order for justice to be provided when there is a police-related shooting and fatality, it requires a full, impartial and transparent investigation."
Barber said that Rolanda Byrd, Denkins' mother, need to be able to see her son as the SBI works to find the truth but asked that the community remain peaceful.
"While this matter is being appropriately investigated," Barber said, "we urge the community to be vigilant in the pursuit of justice, but not to be violent toward one another."
Tensions high in the community
Diane Powelle, who lives in the south Raleigh community, said it is important for neighbors to stand together in times of tragedy.
"If we don't come together, we will fall apart," she said. "United we stand, divided we crumble."
Community leaders met at the Bible Way Temple Tuesday afternoon for talk about the shooting and the future of their neighborhood.
"I've been shocked by everything going on in our community with incidents like this, and I just never thought it would happen in Raleigh," said Dona Osakwe. "I feel like I have to be a part of the change and get justice for everyone in our community."