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Past Police Indifference Fuels Distrust In Curnell Shooting
Published:
7/2/2014 9:21:59 PM


Charleston Branch NAACP President Dot Scott addresses the media while Tri-County National Action Network (NAN) President Elder Johnson consoles Lonese Lang, sister of Denzel Curnell at press conference held June 26 at Brittlebank Park. Photo: Tolbert Smalls, Jr.
 
By Barney Blakeney


Although Charleston police have been tighfisted with information about sharing the details of the June 20 shooting death of 19-year-old Denzel Curnell at the Bridgeview Village complex and because the little information that has been made public is inconclusive, reaction from the Black community continues to be one of distrust and suspicion of foul play on the part of police. Charleston NAACP officials say that reaction is justified.

According to a police report when the first responding officer arrived at the scene, Officer J. Medlin who had asked for assistance with crowd control after shots were fired was standing at the side of his marked cruiser. A motionless man dressed in dark clothing was lying face down in front of the car. The report said a gun was found. It offered no information about who owned the gun or who fired the shots.

Comments made on social media immediately told a version of the incident naming Medlin as the shooter although a police statement said the incident was a possible suicide. A coroner’s report has not ruled whether Curnell’s death was a homicide, suicide or accident.

Without conclusive information exonerating Medlin of culpability in the shooting, many in the black community perpetuate speculation Medlin somehow forced Curnell to act irrationally or somehow was involved in the action.

Charleston Branch NAACP President Dot Scott said because so much corruption has been evident in past police shootings in which Black victims were killed, it’s reasonable for the Black community to suspect collusion in a coverup to hide details that may point to over aggressiveness on Medlin’s part or even his role in the actual shooting.

In a June 26 statement from the organization Scott said despite the lack of information coming forth about the incident, “We do know that Denzel Curnell joins the sad and horrifying list of young Black men shot by or in the presence of law enforcement in our community. Answers have been hard to come by in all those cases, and even when those answers showed clear police culpability and misconduct, not one law enforcement officer has been indicted for shooting a Black suspect.”

Branch First Vice President Rev. Joseph Darby agrees the Black community’s distrust is justified. Citing a statement issued by Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley who already has said, “I am completely confident that the results of the SLED investigation will conclude that the City of Charleston police officer’s actions were proper in all circumstances.”

"Riley’s statement shows authorities don’t even consider the officer involved may have been wrong, Darby," said.

He said the Black community’s distrust is fuled by rampant racial profiling and disrespectful treatment of Black citizens on the part of police. The distrust so obvious in the Denzel Curnell incident will continue until Blacks see police officers treat everyone respectfully, Darby said.

Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten said it could take several weeks before information is available that conclusively determines the manner in which Curnell was shot. Charleston police Chief Greg Mullen said he won’t comment further about the incident until the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division completes its investigation.
 

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