RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A black man shot to death this week by a white North Carolina officer had pulled a gun from his waistband and then reached toward the officer’s weapon during a struggle, according to a report Thursday from the police chief.
Officer D.C. Twiddy was trying to arrest 24-year-old Akiel Denkins on Monday when the two got into the struggle, according to the preliminary report prepared by Chief C.L. Deck-Brown.
The first detailed description of the shooting shocked people somberly preparing for Denkins’ funeral Friday in the predominantly black neighborhood south of downtown Raleigh where the shooting occurred.
The chief’s report 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 Twiddy fired several shots.
The two continued to struggle, and the officer 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. The gun is being tested for fingerprints as part of a continuing probe by the State Bureau of Investigation.
There is no dash cam video of the shooting because it happened away from the patrol car, and because Twiddy hadn’t turned the car’s blue lights, which activate the camera.
Separately, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Thursday that a preliminary autopsy shows Denkins was shot in his right chest, left forearm, right upper arm and right shoulder. The four 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, Freeman said the medical examiner’s office was not authorized to release that information yet.
That witness, Claresa Williams, said she saw the confrontation develop and heard six gunshots but did not see Denkins fall from the bullets.
Asked about Twiddy’s explanation, Freeman said: “We again have a lot of forensic evidence that … potentially could very much validate what Officer Twiddy has said.”
She also said: “But you know this isn’t like CSI. It takes time to analyze all of that.”
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,” she added, referring to Twiddy.
Casanova Womack, who had mentored Denkins since 2011 at Neighbor to Neighbor Outreach, said he never knew Denkins to carry a gun and the description from the chief was “definitely outside of his character.” He said Denkins was close to finishing a high school equivalency diploma and wanted to work construction to support his two young children.
“He was determined to be a good father to his children,” Womack said in a phone interview. “That was his goal, and he was trying to change his life around.”
This story has been corrected to show that Twiddy fired several shots, not Denkins.
Associated Press writers Martha Waggoner and Gary D. Robertson contributed to this report.
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