Akiel Denkins was laid to rest Friday, eulogized and cried over, his 24 years on Earth far too short. His death by gunshot from a Raleigh police officer is being reviewed by state investigators, but the troubles that preceded his fatal encounter already are well known.
After a promising early childhood, Denkins quit high school and had repeated problems with the law. An outstanding warrant is what led to a confrontation with a Raleigh police officer who shot Denkins in the course of trying to arrest him for failure to appear in court on a felony drug charge.
Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown, who prides herself on good relations with all communities of the city, acted quickly to investigate and concluded that Denkins had been carrying a gun and struggled with the officer. Deck-Brown did the right thing in acting with urgency, trying to quell the possibility that rumors about the shooting would trigger violent protests.
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman stepped up to the challenge, calling in the State Bureau of Investigation. Freeman’s quick decision-making was valued. The same can be said of Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, who acted to calm the city and promised answers.
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Those answers are still to come, but community leaders, and those from outside the community such as NAACP President William Barber, have offered condolences and measured responses.
Of most comfort to Denkins’ relatives should be the words of Casanova “Cas” Newman, director of community outreach at Neighbor2Neighbor, a mentoring program in which Denkins was participating. Newman told mourners of Denkins’ plans to get his GED, make progress through a jobs program and become more active in church. Newman saw hope and promise in Denkins.
Those who want to remember Denkins might consider support for Neighbor2Neighbor as a worthy way to help other young men find a better path.
In the United States in recent years, some police shootings have understandably raised suspicions in black communities about excessive force on the part of police – some of those excesses documented. In this case, city and police officials and community leaders acted with urgency to assure all that the truth will be established and justice served.