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Dwayne German Reflects On Stepson Denzel Curnell’s Death Two Years Later
6/23/2016 1:37:16 PM

Denzel Curnell

Officer Jamal Medlin of the Charleston Police Department is seen after a fatal encounter with 19-year-old Denzel Curnell
By Barney Blakeney

Monday June 20 marked the second anniversary of the 2014 police-involved shooting death of Denzel Curnell. Charleston commemorated the June 17, 2015 massacre at Emanuel AME Church as the world watched a succession of related events. And as America recoiled from the massacre of 49 people at an Orlando, Florida night-club, Curnell’s story may have been forgotten. His stepfather, Dwayne German, doesn’t want that to happen.

Charleston police say the 19-year-old killed himself after being confronted by an off-duty officer on private security patrol at the Bridgeview Village apartment complex in the late evening on that hot night. The officer said Curnell was dressed in all black, topped with a hooded shirt which covered his head, attire that had become a uniform of sorts for many in the illegal drug trafficking trade.

According to police reports, the officer confronted Curnell, who had one hand in his pocket. The initial contact escalated into a physical struggle with the officer eventually pinning the much smaller Curnell to the ground beneath his weight. That’s when, according to the officer, Curnell pulled a gun from his shirt and shot himself in the head.

Charleston police immediately after the incident sent emails to city officials stating the incident was a ‘possible’ suicide. Police officials publicly offered no other information.

Their lack of information led to an abundance of misinformation.

Word of mouth and social media facilitated a discourse. Some versions of the incident said 19-year-old Denzell Curnell had struggled with the officer, that Curnell had been shot by the officer while kneeling after being apprehended and that he had been shot in the head or back. Still police officials remained unwilling to shed any information.

Two months later Charleston police issued a statement that the shooting was a suicide and that implications the police officer fired the fatal shot were unfounded. Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott said she didn’t not believe the police despite a S.C. State Law Enforcement Division report that led Ninth Judicial Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson to exonerate the police officer. Scott cited surveillance tape footage of the incident that mysteriously is blank from the time the officer approached Curnell until after the shooting.

Curnell’s stepfather said Monday he understands the spotlight cast on the massacre of the nine victims at Emanuel and its five survivors, but can’t understand the hypocrisy of a community so willing to face the racism that led to the Emanuel tragedy, but unwilling to admit the racism that led to his son’s death.

German said he’s watching the world embrace a community holding hands in forgiveness while turning a blind eye on the divisiveness that spawns disparities in education, housing and criminal justice.

“Those are the fruits of disparities. And because of those disparities, I was my son’s pallbearer. I can’t tell you how many times I made my son go to bed. I never thought I would lay him to his eternal rest. Racial profiling led to that officer accosting Denzel. It was as wrong as two left shoes. I will not forget my son’s death and I don’t want others to forget,” German said.

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