Wake County school board member Keith Sutton is calling the recent fatal shooting of a 24-year-old man by a Raleigh police officer a “murder” and says the school system needs to “hear the cries and anguish that’s going in our community right now.”
Akiel Denkins was killed shortly after noon on Feb. 29 by Raleigh police officer D.C. Twiddy. Police have said Denkins was armed and was shot during a struggle while Denkins’ family says he was unarmed and shot from behind. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said she’s asked for the final autopsy to be expedited.
Sutton addressed the Denkins’ shooting during board member comments at Tuesday’s meeting. Sutton, whose Southeast Raleigh district includes where the shooting occurred, mentioned that he had attended a meeting Monday night at Revelation Church.
“I also attended last night a meeting put together by grassroots leadership in the community that’s meeting on a weekly basis in response to the murder of the young gentleman in Southeast Raleigh a couple of weeks ago,” Sutton said.
Sutton confirmed in an interview that he was talking about Denkins.
During his board comments, Sutton also mentioned a meeting he attended last week of the Southeast Raleigh CAC to hear the community’s concerns that the new Poole Road Elementary School will cause traffic issues. Sutton said he was mentioning both meetings to talk about how the school system needs to be responsive to the community.
“What I came away with in both of those meetings is that our community is very concerned,” Sutton said at Tuesday’s school board meeting. “Our community is very frustrated, our community is very angry and upset, our community is hurting.
“I’m glad that the Wake County Board of Education, through its work, continues to be responsive to our community. I hope that we can continue to be and improve our response to the community.
“Many of the issues that were talked about at last night’s meeting had nothing to do directly, or have a direct impact by the school system, but our community often looks at us as having the answers to those, or having an impact on those issues – be it traffic congestion in our communities or the safety of our students and, quite frankly, sometimes adults even though they are out on our streets and not in the community.
“They feel as though the school system has a role to play, and in some respects we do. But as I was reminding them, it’s a shared partnership. It’s not just the community, it’s not just parents, it’s not just students, it’s not just the school system.
“It is our entire community so I just share that to say again I hope that we can continue to be – and I know we will be – a district, a board, a system that is responsive to our community and hear the cries and anguish that’s going on in our community right now.”
This is not the first time that Sutton has spoken out on police shootings.
In December 2014, Sutton wore a “Black Lives Matter” shirt at a school board meeting where he said that the school system can learn from the nationwide protests of the criminal justice system's handling of police killings of unarmed black men.
Sutton mentioned in that meeting how his life could have turned out differently if a Raleigh police officer had used a chokehold on him at a July 2010 school board meeting where 16 people were arrested. Sutton was nearly arrested after he waded into the crowd, which was protesting the school board's efforts to end busing for diversity, in what he said was an attempt to defuse the situation.