Hundreds of people gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Monday to mourn the death of a 24-year-old black man who was shot by a police officer earlier in the day during a foot chase. Details about what exactly happened are still sketchy, but according to the News & Observer in Raleigh, Akiel Denkins had started running when the officer, 29-year-old D.C. Twiddy, moved to arrest him.
The News & Observer described the 300 or so people who participated in Monday’s vigil as peaceful but anxious; according to the New York Times, local religious leaders spoke to a crowd that could be heard chanting “Black lives matter.”
A witness named Truvalia Kearney told the News & Observer that she was standing near Denkins around noon on Monday when a police car pulled up and Denkins “took off running.” According to Kearney’s account, Denkins jumped a chain-link fence and ducked into the backyard of a house while Twiddy, the officer, pursued him.
“The officer jumped the fence and fell down,” Kearney told the News & Observer. “He pulled his gun out and started shooting. [Denkins] got shot in the back.”
Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown, who became the first black woman to head the city’s police department in 2013, gave a press conference Monday during which she declined to name the person who had been killed but said the officer involved had been trying to arrest him on a felony drug charge. Deck-Brown also said that a firearm was recovered near the person’s body after the incident, but she did not specify whether she believed he had reached for that firearm during the chase. (The witness who spoke to the News & Observer said Denkins had not.)
Denkins’ mother, Rolanda Byrd, spoke to reporters at the scene of the incident several hours after it happened; you can watch that interview here. Byrd said the police had not yet confirmed for her that the person who had been killed was her son, but that multiple people from around the neighborhood who knew Denkins told her it was him. “Everybody out here’s saying that he ran,” Byrd said. “He wasn’t running toward the officer, he was running away from the officer. … He wasn’t threatening anyone.”
The officer who shot Denkins was not wearing a body camera, as police in Raleigh have not been outfitted with them. (A City Council session to discuss body cameras for police was scheduled for Monday afternoon but was postponed as a result of the shooting.)
Denkins’ mother said that a video of the incident exists in which the shooting can be heard but not seen and that her lawyer is in possession of it. “There’s video. Y’all are gonna see it soon,” she told reporters.
The officer’s account of what happened has not been released. He has been placed on administrative duty pending an investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation and the Raleigh Police Department’s internal affairs office. Chief Deck-Brown said she would release a written report about the shooting to the City Council by the end of the week.
A Washington Post project that tracks police shootings around the country indicates that Denkins is the 167th person to be shot and killed by police this year.