The family of Akiel Denkins, the black man shot four times by Raleigh police officer D.C. Twiddy on February 29, will not be getting justice for the loss of a loved one in criminal court. The Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman announced Wednesday morning that Twiddy will not be charged in Denkin’s killing.
— Tim Pulliam (@TimABC11) April 13, 2016
Despite witness reports that Denkins was climbing a fence when he was shot and killed by the officer, Freeman found circumstantial evidence sufficient to say Denkins died in an armed struggle with the officer. Gun shot residue on Denkins’ body indicated that he was shot at close range. Of the four shots, only one hit him in the rear.
“Officer Twiddy’s decision to use deadly force was a lawful response to the situation and deemed necessary to defend himself,” Freeman said in a statement.
Officer Twiddy’s version of events was recorded in a long press release published on Wednesday. According to the officer, he recognized Denkins by name and appearance and knew he had a warrant for his arrest in the CJLEADS database. After attempting to call out to Denkins, the officer pursued him in a foot chase.
— Amy Cutler (@AmyCutlerNews) April 13, 2016
In Twiddy’s account the officer claims he saw Denkins’ right hand on his waistband throughout the entire foot chase. After chasing behind Denkins for a short distance, Twiddy observed Denkins trying to jump a chain link fence. However, Denkins fell to the ground in the attempt.
Twiddy claims he ran to tackle Denkins and tried to use the force of his body to subdue the fleeing man. During the struggle that ensued, Denkins felt Twiddy reach into his waistband.
At this point, Officer Twiddy could see Mr. Denkins pulling out a handgun from his waistband. Officer Twiddy indicated he issued a command for Mr. Denkins to drop the gun. Officer Twiddy stated the handgun appeared to be a Smith and Wesson revolver. As a result, Officer Twiddy pulled out his handgun with his right hand and fired two rounds while Mr. Denkins was still raising his handgun and the two men were touching. Officer Twiddy stated that he fired his weapon at Mr. Denkins because he was in fear for his life.
Mr. Denkins then grabbed the barrel area of Officer Twiddy’s gun and Officer Twiddy pulled his gun back and fired additional rounds at Mr. Denkins. Officer Twiddy was backing up as he fired the shots and he fired until Mr. Denkins stopped and fell to the ground. Mr. Denkins fell forward onto his stomach.
The district attorney felt that the gunshot residue corroborated Twiddy’s claim to have not shot at Denkins from more than seven feet away. Denkins’ DNA was also found on the barrel of Twiddy’s gun.
A toxicology report said that Denkins had cocaine in his system at the time of the shooting.
Of the thirty witnesses interviewed by the SBI, agents were only able to identify two eyewitnesses to the shooting itself. Neither of those two claims checked out with regard to the physical evidence or location of the shooting.
“The crime scene search of 1117 S. East Street did not locate any shell casings in the area where these witnesses reported seeing Officer Twiddy fire his weapon,” said Freeman’s report.
— Ken Smith (@KenSmithWRAL) April 13, 2016
WRAL reported that Denkins’ mother, Rolanda Byrd met privately with the district attorney the morning before her report was released to the public.
“His story – statement – says that he tussled with my son before he shot him,” Byrd said. “Why didn’t you Taser him at that point instead of waiting till it got to a point where you had to shoot my son and kill him?
A lawyer for the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, Irving Joyner has cast doubt into the D.A.’s findings. Joyner raised concerns that no witnesses could be found who knew Denkins had a gun.
For Rolanda Byrd the fight for justice for her son has only just begun. She simply doesn’t believe Twiddy’s version of events.
“He and my son were the only two behind that house that actually know exactly what went on,” Denkins’ mother said.”I am going to fight until I can’t fight no more for my son’s statement to be heard.”