Despite the release of body-cam footage from the officer-involved shooting on March 25th, Charlotte authorities are preparing themselves for protesters.
In the video sequence that authorities released, a Charlotte officer can be seen giving an armed man commands to put down his weapon over and over. When he refused to drop the gun, he was shot and killed by responding officers.
In the video, Officer Wende Kerl of CMPD can be seen responding to multiple 911 calls of an armed man in the Burger King parking lot. “He got a gun. He has a gun. He’s pointing it at employees,” one of the callers said.
And yet, even though this veteran officer had to make a split-second decision that will undoubtedly changer her life, she is still be chastised for her actions. People across the country are still screaming about excessive use of force and walking out of schools and work in protest.
When Kerl pulls into the lot, dash-cam footage shows the suspect squatting next to the passenger side door of a red Honda Accord.
As Kerl and another officer approached the man, guns drawn, his hands are not visible. The officers engaged with the suspect, repeatedly giving the command to ‘put the gun down’. The suspect appears confused in the video, not responding to officer commands.
After giving the order approximately 20 times, the suspect’s right can be seen moving. Fearing for her life, Officer Kerl shot the man twice, hitting him center mass. The man then falls to the ground.
Put yourself in this situation. You’re shaking, scared for your life. After 20+ years on the job, this may very well be the most intense moment. You, your fellow officers, and every innocent civilian in the area is at risk. So when your instructions are ignored, the suspect in front of you moves, forcing you to make the very decision you hoped you’d never have to.
But you survive. Everyone is safe. Job well done, right? Not in America 2019.
The incident occurred in a Burger King restaurant parking lot at the end of March, but the video was just released to the public on Monday. Officer Kerl is a 24-year veteran of the department. At the time of the shooting, the chief stated that “One of the first arriving officers perceived a lethal threat, fired at least one round, striking the subject.”
Before the footage was made public, city officials were already preparing for what might occur in reaction to the video. On Monday night, protesters gathered peacefully in Marshall Park to remember the man who was shot, 27-year-old Danquirs Franklin. The gathering kept to a candlelight vigil, but officials say that is most likely not the end of it.
Mayor Vi Lyles pleaded for “all of Charlotte to come together respectfully.”
Violent protests have seemingly become synonymous with officer-involved shootings. Even with the installation of body-worn cameras on officers across the country, and even with the release of footage from similar situations that show officer lives in danger, the protests continue.
By law, an officer who fears for their own life is authorized to use lethal force to stop a threat. Across the country, lawmakers are trying to alter that right. In January, lawmakers in New Hampshire introduced a bill that would revoke an officer’s authorization to use deadly force in necessary situations.
There are not a lot of details available about the bill’s restrictions as of yet, but from what we can tell, these politicians are putting handcuffs on their own community protectors with the introduction of this legislation.
Supporters of the bill have claimed that they aren’t trying to tie the hands of police, but save lives. But in more than 100 reviews of police use of deadly force since 1990, the Attorney General’s office has never deemed that an officer should face criminal charges.
In California just two months ago, new legislation would change the law so that deadly force would only be authorized if other de-escalation tactics were either unfeasible or attempted without success.
“This means they may use force only if there is no reasonable alternative, including warnings, verbal persuasion or other non-lethal methods of resolution or de-escalation,” Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber said.
She claimed that she would try to set a countrywide standard to only allow police to use deadly force to prevent serious injury or death.
If these measures don’t lead to an increased rate of officers being killed on duty, we don’t know what will. If these new laws pass, more officers in real and significant danger will not pull the trigger on their service weapons in fear for the public fallback and potential for going to prison simply for protecting their own lives. We are letting narratives control how our officers live and work.