A Durham police officer involved in the fatal police shooting of Frank Nathaniel Clark been pulled off active duty, Police Chief C.J. Davis said Thursday.
Officer Monte Southerland, whose leg was injured in the Nov. 22 shooting, had returned to active duty on the Violent Incident Response Team on Jan. 12 after returning from medical leave.
Southerland was placed back on administrative duty recently after Davis learned during a staff meeting that he had returned to his standard assignment. The State Bureau of Investigation has been examining the Nov. 22 shooting of Clark but has not yet released its report.
“I had absolutely no idea that this person was released back to the street,” Davis said.
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Davis is changing the Police Department’s policy to ensure that she signs off when an officer returns to active duty, she said.
“When I say I want the SBI to come back and explain to us what occurred, that is exactly what I want,” Davis said. “You can’t make that determination if somebody else is doing an investigation.”
A city report on the shooting says Southerland, Master Officer Charles Barkley and Officer Christopher Goss were patrolling the area of Wabash and Dayton streets around 12:30 p.m. Nov. 22.
This is what the report says happened:
Southerland saw Clark near Building 60 at the McDougald Terrace public housing complex and got out of his patrol car to speak with him. Barkley pulled up and he and Southerland started talking to Clark. During the conversation, Clark reached for his waistband and a struggle ensued. Officers heard a shot. Southerland fell to the ground, and Barkley fired his weapon in response.
Goss immediately got on the radio and called for help.
However, witness Reketa Bagley, who said she saw the encounter, said Barkley was patting Clark down when a gun went off. Police shouted “gun” and Clark “took off running,” she said.
Davis said only officers directly involved in the shooting will remain on administrative duty during the SBI investigation.
Goss, who returned to active duty Dec. 2, wasn’t in close proximity, she said.
“I didn’t associate him with the immediate incident,” he said.
Barkley returned from administrative leave to administrative duty, in which he doesn’t have full police powers, on Dec. 2.
Davis said Southerland was placed back on administrative duty at the end of February after she learned he had returned to active duty during a staff meeting.
Davis’ remarks clarify what the Police Department had previously said about the officers’ status.
In late February and again March 2, in response to a reporter’s questions, police spokesman Wil Glenn had said Southerland and Goss were on active duty.
After City Councilwoman Jillian Johnson and others raised concerns, a reporter checked with Glenn again on Monday to comment on those concerns, which he declined to do. A story about the officers’ return to active duty was published online Tuesday.
On Thursday, Davis said the information about Southerland’s return to administrative duty had not been shared with Glenn.
Johnson and the others said they think the officers should remain on administrative leave during the SBI investigation.
In general, officers involved in a shooting are placed on paid administrative leave or duty with pay pending the administrative review of the incident, Glenn wrote in an email last month.
“An officer remains on administrative leave/duty status until such time as determined by the department,” Glenn wrote.
The three officers were members of the Violent Incident Response Team, which focuses on “gathering intelligence and following up on violent-crime incidents,” according to police.
When asked whether Barkley would return to the team, Glenn wrote “Barkley’s status has not been determined.”
The department requires officers who fire their weapons in such incidents to participate in a psychological wellness check, Glenn wrote. Other officers involved in the incident may also be required to participate in a wellness check.
All three of the officers have been tied to controversial cases.
Barkley was suspended in 2014, and Southerland was suspended in March, according to the Police Department.
In 2006, a woman accused Barkley of using excessive force when he used a flashlight to break up a fight between two girls outside Jordan High School. A 15-year-old girl suffered a skull fracture from the incident. Barkley was working an off-duty assignment for a basketball game at the school, the family’s attorney said.
In December 2014, the Police Department’s internal affairs agreed Southerland had used excessive force by using a Taser stun gun on a 14-year-old boy while working with other officers to break up a family quarrel, according to a Police Department letter written by D.C. Allen, a captain in the Professional Standards Division.
Barkley and Goss were also among the officers involved in that incident, but excessive force complaints against them weren’t proven, according to internal affairs.