Neighborhood reflects on life, death of man shot by police

AP News
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Posted: Mar 01, 2016 5:18 PM
Neighborhood reflects on life, death of man shot by police

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The black man shot to death by a police officer was a father of two who was quick to flash a smile or give a hug, yet someone who had a troubled relationship with police and was wanted on charges of selling cocaine.

Akiel Denkins, 24, died Monday after a foot pursuit with an officer serving a felony arrest warrant. The officer chased Denkins over a fence and fired multiple shots in a backyard behind a modest home, according to police and witnesses.

The police shooting angered residents in this predominantly African-American neighborhood and comes as officers face perhaps more scrutiny than ever over their treatment of young black men. The officer's race was not released and police gave out few details, other than saying a gun was found near Denkins.

"He had some troubles, but he was a good guy," said Pastor Chris Jones of the Ship of Zion, who uses patience and prayer to convince young men in the community to give up drug dealing and other troubled paths.

Truvalia Bailey said she bumped into Denkins about 10 minutes before the shooting and he "hugged me around the neck."

"It happens everywhere," she said of the police shootings, her voice hoarse and breaking with emotion. "But it finally hit Raleigh."

Frustration with police was evident in the hours after the shooting, with some chanting "no justice, no peace" at the edge of a police cordon.

The atmosphere was calmer Tuesday in the neighborhood of one-story houses and small clusters of apartments. Residents say they have a complicated relationship with police.

More than a half-dozen churches sit within a half-mile of where shooting took place, and three area pastors chose measured responses such as "somewhat peaceful," ''decent" or "respectful" when asked to describe interactions between the community and officers. Some people complained that crime in the area is driven by outsiders coming in at night to buy and sell drugs.

Denkins had children ages 1 and 2, said the Rev. William Barber II, the head of the North Carolina National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"Did he have faults? All human beings have faults. Some reports say he had an arrest record. So do I," Barber told reporters Tuesday.

But Barber said neither a warrant nor an arrest record "is a license to kill" and he called for a fair and transparent investigation.

Denkins' mother, Rolonda Byrd, had tears streaming down her face as she stood next to Barber. She said she went to the medical examiner's office, but wasn't allowed to look at her son's body.

"They stopped me at the door. Somehow they knew I was on my way," Byrd said.

A day earlier, she questioned the police officer's use of force.

"Why wasn't there a Taser pulled out to Taser him while he was jumping over that fence? What happened to beanbags guns? They used to use those to stop a criminal. They don't do that anymore. Now it's just bullets — all bullets. Why?" she said.

The police department identified the officer involved in the shooting as senior officer D.C. Twiddy, 29. He has been placed on administrative leave while the State Bureau of Investigation looks into the matter.

Shooting witness Claresa Williams said she was standing in front of her apartment when she saw an officer drive up.

"When the police came, he jumped the fence" into the backyard of a house next door, Williams told The Associated Press. "The officer jumped the fence, pulled his gun out and shot him down six times."

Williams said her view was blocked so she didn't see the man fall from the bullets.

"To me, you pulled your gun out and you fired at that man six times in his back because he was running," Williams said.

Denkins had previous drug convictions and was released on $10,000 secured bond in October after being charged with selling cocaine, according to court documents. He failed to show up for a court date and an order for his arrest was filed Friday.

On Tuesday morning, several young men gathered at a makeshift memorial with balloons and flowers to take pictures and write messages about "Lock Man" on large pieces of poster board.

Jones, the pastor, said he and Denkins had good conversations at the Galley Grocery Store, which is operated by Jones' church.

"A big smile would come on his face, and he would say 'What's up Pastor Chris?'" Jones said.

Denise Brimley, who works at the Galley, said Denkins usually ordered two chili dogs and a can of grape soda. She said she was thinking about his two children: "It's really sad that young man isn't going to get to see them grow up."

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Associated Press writers Emery P. Dalesio, Allen G. Breed and Martha Waggoner contributed to this report.