BY CASH MICHAELS OF THE WILMINGTON JOURNAL
There is no word on when the State Bureau of Investigation will render the findings of its independent criminal investigation to Wake District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, or if those findings will be immediately made public.
And yet, the questions in the aftermath of the fatal Raleigh police shooting Monday in Southeast Raleigh continue to grow, leaving a community shaken that compared to a Chicago, New York, or even Ferguson, Mo., such a thing could happen in Raleigh.
What is known is that shortly after 12 noon on Monday, Feb. 29th, Raleigh Senior Police Officer D. C. Twiddy, 29, shot and killed Akiel Rakim Lakeith Denkins, 24, during a foot chase at Bragg and East streets while attempting to serve a felony arrest warrant. Several witnesses say they saw the chase, saw Denkins run behind P.J.’s Grill and Groceries, climb over a chain-linked fence and was attempting to climb another, when Officer Twiddy, who had fallen after climbing the first fence, drew his weapon and fired repeatedly, fatally striking Denkins.
Some eyewitnesses say they heard as many as six to seven shots, and that Denkins was struck in the back.
Several have alleged that Denkins was unarmed, even though Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown later told reporters that a gun was found near Denkins’ body.
Assuming the events as described by some witnesses are true, it will only be until after an autopsy and forensic evidence are released that it will be known exactly how many times Denkins was struck, and exactly where.
Long before conclusive evidence is known, however, the community and its leaders have peacefully, but forcefully taken to the streets, demanding the truth, demanding justice, and claiming their right to the painful declaration that has been uttered in numerous other American cities since the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. in August 2014.
“Black Lives Matter.”
Again, until a final public accounting is made by either the Raleigh Police Department or the Wake County District Attorney’s Office based on the SBI independent criminal investigation, based on what little about the fatal shooting has been reported, there are mounting questions.
THE GUN – In her statement to the media Monday afternoon post incident, Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown said, “Initially it is known that a firearm was located in close proximity to the deceased suspect. That weapon, along with all other elements available at the scene will be processed.”
Are Akiel Denkins’ fingerprints on that gun? Who does the gun legally belong to? Was the gun fired on that day, and was it fired by Denkins? Is the officer alleging that Denkins brandished the weapon toward him during the pursuit? If the officer fired his weapon six – seven times, why do so toward someone running away from him, instead of toward him in a threatening manner? Why didn’t any of the witnesses who spoke to the media say anything about seeing Denkins with a weapon, or pointing the weapon toward the officer?
Was Akiel Denkins known to have carried a firearm? If so, was he ever arrested and charged with a firearms violation before? If he was ever charged with carrying an illegal weapon, then was only one officer sent to find him to serve a felony drug warrant, and if so, why only one? If there were other officers, what were their actions before, during and after Denkins allegedly ran.
THE OFFICER – Senior Officer D.C. Twiddy has been employed with the Raleigh Police Department since November 2009 and is assigned to the Field Operations Division. He is currently on administrative duty pending completion of the SBI criminal investigation.
What is his history while serving on the RPD? Has he ever had any prior incidents of citizen complaints, firing his weapon on the job, or have been accused of using undue force while on duty? Did Officer Twiddy come to the RPD from either service in the military or from another law enforcement agency?
How long has Officer Twiddy been patrolling that Southeast Raleigh neighborhood since he’s been on the force? What was his reputation in that neighborhood? Did he and Akiel Denkins ever have contact before, and if so, what was the nature of that contact?
According to published reports, Akiel Denkins was well-known and liked in the Bragg Street community. He was the father of two young children, and even though he had a criminal record (arrested 16 times over the past five years reportedly) dealing mainly with illegal drugs, Denkins was studying to improve himself and become a carpenter.
“He was a father’s son and a mother’s son! I heard that his daughter was asking for him the night he was killed! He was a father who turned 24 on February 8th! I heard he was loved by people on Bragg Street and he did what he could to help them in any way! That was his home! He wanted to be a carpenter!” stated Southeast Raleigh activist Aaliyah Blaylock on her Facebook page tribute to Denkins.
Hundreds of people have held a vigil at the site of the shooting, marched through the streets of Raleigh blocking traffic downtown, and speaking out demanding justice. Ministers of churches in the community have called for calm and patience for the truth to come out, but have also called for justice if the facts determine that the officer was in the wrong.
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, along with Chief Deck-Brown and other city leaders, has expressed condolences to Denkins’ family, and also asked for calm, hoping not to see a repeat of violent street clashes that have marred cities like Baltimore in the aftermath of previous alleged police abuse cases.
The Raleigh Police Protective Association has come out in full support of Officer Twiddy and his actions.
The NC NAACP has also urged community calm while demanding honest answers. NC NAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber, during a Tuesday press conference with Akiel Denkins’ mother on hand, said the community “can handle the truth.”
“Just be honest and forthright,” Rev. Barber insisted.
Tonight during a community town hall meeting at Martin Street Baptist Church at 6:30 p.m. sponsored by State Sen. Dan Blue and House representatives Rosa Gill and Yvonne Holley, all three Southeast Raleigh leaders are expected to address the events of this week with the community.