The state NAACP urged Raleigh residents to remain calm and nonviolent Tuesday but also demanded an “honest and forthright” investigation of the police shooting just south of downtown Monday that left a black man dead and a neighborhood shaken.
As more than 100 people gathered around PJ’s Grill & Groceries on Bragg Street, the shooting site, the Rev. William Barber II said the city must avoid prejudging either the slain 24-year-old or the circumstances of his death until all questions have been asked and answered. He said he is encouraged that Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown has promised to follow the investigation wherever it leads.
“Just be honest and forthright,” said Barber, president of the state NAACP. “We can handle the truth. We’ve handled the truth for many years.”
Mayor Nancy McFarlane echoed Barber’s call for calm in a statement she read at city hall early Tuesday afternoon.
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“Yesterday lives were changed, and we stand here, both present and past elected leaders of the community, to ask for calm, prayer and patience,” McFarlane said. “Any loss of life, regardless of circumstance, is heartbreaking, and we offer our sincere condolences to all of those involved. We understand the need and desire of the community for information to be able to make sense of yesterday’s events. We are committed to ensuring information is shared as it becomes available.”
The State Bureau of Investigation confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the officer shot Akiel Rakim Lakeith Denkins of Raleigh. SBI agents spoke with Denkins’ mother, Rolanda Byrd, on Tuesday, after the NAACP news conference, at which she said she had not been officially notified of her son’s death.
Shortly after noon Monday, Senior Officer D.C. Twiddy was trying to arrest Denkins on a felony drug charge when Twiddy shot him, according to police. Deck-Brown provided few details, saying only that the officer was chasing Denkins on foot when Denkins was shot and killed and that a firearm was found near his body.
Twiddy, 29, has worked for the department since November 2009. He has been placed on administrative duty pending the completion of the investigation by the State Bureau Investigation.
The SBI will report its findings to the Wake County District Attorney’s Office. Deck-Brown said she will provide a written report about the shooting to the city manager within five business days.
Barber stood flanked by Byrd, who was told by a cousin Monday that her son had been shot in the back while running away from an officer. Other witnesses, she said, told her he was unarmed. Byrd told the crowd at PJ’s that she went to the state medical examiner’s office Monday but was turned away and informed that the building is not public.
“We don’t know what happened,” Barber said. “All we know is ‘Ask the right questions.’” He listed several: Was the subject armed? Was he running away? What is the history of the gun police found? Did it have fingerprints on it? Does video footage of the shooting exist?
Court records show Denkins was arrested in October and charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute it. He was charged with failing to show up for court in the case on Feb. 2. Byrd said Denkins was the father of two sons.
“A warrant for arrest is not a license to kill,” Barber said. “If one is running away, that is not a license to kill.”
Mourners on Tuesday continued to pay tribute to Denkins outside PJ’s, with a growing number of heart-shaped balloons, candles and posterboards saying “RIP Lockman” and “RIP Lotto.” The store has been a mainstay in the neighborhood for 25 years, a place where residents buy beer, wine and cigarettes, but also fresh vegetables, milk, bread and processed meats.
Owner Fufa Duressa said Denkins would come to the store to buy cigarettes and sometimes a sandwich.
“He was a very nice guy,” Duressa said. “He didn’t bother anybody. He didn’t even talk much.”