Mayor Bill Bell sent a letter this week to Gov. Pat McCrory and Frank Perry, secretary of the state Department of Public Safety, asking them to expedite the review of the fatal police shooting of Frank Nathaniel Clark.
Bell initially said he planned to make the request to Gov.-elect Roy Cooper, who was also sent the correspondence, but decided to address the letter to McCrory and Perry since they will remain in charge until the end of the year.
After a nearly two-hour closed session Monday night, council members said they planned to ask the state to fast track the State Bureau of Investigation’s review of the Nov. 22 shooting. Bell said the Police Department recently reached out to the SBI, asking how long the review of the shooting would take.
“The nut of what we got back was they didn’t know,” Bell said.
Bell said the council also discussed on Monday night whether to make public the personnel information of the three officers involved in the shooting at the McDougald Terrace public housing complex.
Attorneys for Clark’s families, some members of the community and City Councilwoman Jillian Johnson have asked the city’s administration to release the complaint history of the officers.
In general, state law shields most personnel information, including complaints and consequences.
However, the law could allow City Manager Tom Bonfield, with City Council agreement, to release information if city leaders determine it is “essential to maintaining public confidence in the administration of city services.”
“It’s a question that is going to need to be answered by our city manager’s office before we have any further input into that, so that’s what we are waiting for,” Johnson said.
On Tuesday afternoon Bonfield said he hopes to make a decision by week’s end.
During the closed-door session, Johnson said council members learned more about some past incidents involving the officers that had already been reported in the media.
She said she couldn’t disclose that information but still supports releasing it. Councilman Charlie Reece also supports the release.
“I don’t know that the content of the file necessarily for me determines whether or not it should be released,” Johnson said. “The question for me is whether the community has the right to know the history of these officers.”
Other council members said they needed more information or wanted to wait until the SBI report.
Meanwhile, city officials plan to express to Cooper “the importance of trying to get this investigation completed as quickly as possible,” Bell said. “If there is any way he could assist in that matter with the SBI (State Bureau of Investigation), it would be greatly appreciated.”
City officials also plan to send a letter to District Attorney Roger Echols, who will get the SBI report and decide whether to make it public.
The encounter between Clark and officers Charles Barkley, Christopher Goss and Monte Southerland left the 34-year-old Durham man dead near the corner of Dayton and Wabash streets.
A city report says the officers stopped and questioned Clark around 12:30 p.m. It says Clark reached for his waistband and a struggle ensued. Officers said they heard a gunshot and that Southerland fell to the ground, prompting Barkley to fire his gun.
Reketa Bagley, who said she saw the encounter, said Barkley was patting Clark down when a gun went off. Clark “took off running,” and was hit with gunfire in the back of his head, she said.
Meanwhile, Clark’s family and a community organizer attended Monday’s City Council meeting to criticize Councilman Eddie Davis’ recent comments.
Davis has said while he has heard from individuals who repeatedly criticize police, he doesn’t think the Clark shooting has resulted in a public outcry or compromised public confidence.
“The family of Frank Clark is in this room today. I don’t know where you are listening. We have been crying. There has been an outcry,” said Umar Muhammad, a community organizer with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “We have been crying. We have been crying about Barkley. We have been crying about Goss.”
Muhammad and Clark’s family left before the City Council went into closed session.
Davis said Muhammad took his comments out of context and that he didn’t intend to disrespect Clark’s family.