The Wake County district attorney has asked the state medical examiner to expedite the final autopsy of a 24-year-old man shot by a Raleigh police officer last month, after the man’s family revealed that one of the four gunshot wounds was to the back of his right shoulder.
Akiel Denkins was killed shortly after noon on Feb. 29 by Raleigh police officer D.C. Twiddy. On March 3, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman disclosed that a preliminary autopsy report showed Denkins suffered four gunshot wounds – one to the chest that injured the heart and both lungs, another to the left arm, one in the upper right arm and another to the right shoulder.
At the time, the medical examiner did not authorize Freeman to release information about precisely where on the body the wounds were.
On Monday, Freeman said she still had not been given a diagram showing her details of the wounds, nor did she have permission from the medical examiner to say more publicly about them.
“I continue to push them as recently as this weekend and today to expedite their final report,” Freeman said Monday, adding that she was told it could be six more weeks before the report is final.
Freeman said investigators with the State Bureau of Investigation had interviewed the pathologist and that details from the interview will be reflected in the SBI’s report to the district attorney’s office on the shooting.
Raleigh police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown outlined Twiddy’s account of the encounter in a preliminary report released March 3.
It said Twiddy, 29, a senior officer with a little more than six years of experience on the Raleigh police force, parked his patrol car and began to approach Denkins on Bragg Street to arrest him on an outstanding warrant for failing to appear in court on a felony drug charge. When Denkins began to walk away, Twiddy reportedly told him to stop before a foot chase took the men between two houses on East Street.
It was there that the shooting occurred. Twiddy, according to Deck-Brown’s report, said there was a struggle at a fence.
“As the struggle continued, Officer Twiddy observed Mr. Denkins start to pull a handgun from the front of his waistband and begin to move it toward Officer Twiddy,” Deck-Brown said in the March 3 report. “While still struggling with Mr. Denkins, Officer Twiddy drew his duty weapon and fired multiple shots as Mr. Denkins continued to move the firearm in his direction.”
After the first shots were fired, according to the chief’s report, Twiddy said he “felt Mr. Denkins’ hand or arm make contact with his duty weapon.” Twiddy then stepped back and fired additional shots at Denkins, according to the report.
Denkins collapsed to the ground, according to the report, and dropped the gun the officer said he was carrying.
On Saturday, the NAACP and attorneys working with the organization held a news conference with Denkins’ mother, Rolanda Byrd, who, like many residents in the neighborhood, believes Denkins was shot in the back as he ran from Twiddy.
Raleigh attorney Priscilla McKoy and Durham attorney Scott Holmes said the family had an autopsy done independently of the medical examiner’s office, though they have declined to release all of the findings or the name of the pathologist who did the report.
“What we can say, based on initial review by our forensic pathologist, is that there was a shot from the back to the front shoulder area,” Holmes told reporters Saturday.
SBI report wrapping soon
Freeman said Monday that she expects the SBI to conclude its report within the next week or so, but that both continue to welcome new information from anyone who has details from that day.
The SBI has interviewed 40 witnesses and has been to the site to see how forensic evidence fits into the narratives. Freeman also went to the scene and has met with the family and their attorneys. She encouraged Denkins’ family and representatives to provide her or investigators with any information they turn up that could draw a fuller picture.
The investigators have not found any video yet, but they continue to ask anyone who has any images from the scene to come forward.
Though it might be difficult for medical examiners to determine the order in which the gunshot wounds were inflicted on Denkins’ body or the precise distance from which the gun was fired, other evidence can help investigators sort through some of those details.
“Certainly it is important that all pieces of this investigation, including the autopsy, be done thoroughly,” Freeman stated. “But this is a case where it makes sense to try to expedite it.”