Officer says Denzel Curnell's 'odd' clothing led to investigative stop

Officer says Denzel Curnell's 'odd' clothing led to investigative stop

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A police officer who was investigated and cleared by the solicitor's office in the shooting death of Denzel Curnell said in a written statement to investigators that one of the reasons he stopped Curnell was because he found it odd that the 19-year-old man was wearing long sleeves, long pants and a hoodie during the hot weather.

Attorney Andy Savage, who is representing Curnell's family, provided the Charleston police officer's statement to Live 5 News regarding the June 20 incident at the Bridgeview apartment complex.

On Monday, officials with the Ninth Circuit Solicitor's Office released a statement saying that they would not seek an indictment against the police officer. In a letter to SLED, Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said that the evidence made it "clear" that Curnell committed suicide outside the Bridgeview Apartments.

The Charleston police officer said in a written statement the incident began when he was on patrol inside the Bridgeview apartment complex sitting inside his patrol car. The officer said he saw a man, later identified as Curnell, wearing all black with a hoodie pulled over his head walking across the complex at a "brisk pace" towards an apartment building.

"As I observed the male figure walking across the complex, I found it odd due to the fact that it was approximately 85 degrees, and the male figure was wearing long sleeves, long pants, and a hoodie over his head," the officer wrote in his statement.

The officer stated that through his experience, he knows "that criminals will over dress for conditions when they are about to have committed a crime because it is easier to conceal weapons and/or their identity."

According to the officer, based on the circumstances he listed, he drove to the back of the building and attempted to make contact with Curnell. The officer reported that when he reached the back of the building he saw Curnell lingering around the rear of an apartment building.

The officer said in his statement that he then approached Curnell in his squad car, and when he got 10 yards to the victim, he exited the vehicle and said,"Hey man, can I holla at you?"

According to the officer, Curnell then turned around and acknowledged the officer's presence. The officer said Curnell had a "distant look" on his face and that he was concealing his right hand inside his hoodie pocket.

"Due to the look on the victim's face and the manner in which he was concealing his hand, I immediately got a bad feeling, and was fearful about the situation," the officer wrote. "Therefore, I withdrew my duty weapon and pointed it toward the victim."

In the officer's account, he reported that Curnell refused to comply with the officer's commands to take his hand out of his pocket, and continued to stare at him. The officer said and after several seconds, Curnell turned his back on the officer with his hand still concealed inside his pocket.

According to the officer, he then grabbed Curnell by the back of his hoodie and attempted to escort him to his vehicle so he could pat him down.

The officer said that as he was escorting Curnell, Curnell started to resist and turned his back towards the officer. The officer reported that due to the Curnell's actions, he disengaged from him and told him to stop.

According to the officer's statement, Curnell walked away from the officer and got on his knees with his hand still concealed in his pocket.

The officer reported that when he grabbed Curnell by the back of his hoodie to get him to the ground, he could feel Curnell resisting.

"Therefore, I used my body weight to push the victim to the ground, and I landed on top of him," the officer stated."At this point I was kneeling over the victim, and he still had his right hand concealed in his hoodie pocket."

The officer said that while both of them were on the ground, he told Curnell to stop resisting and to turn over on his stomach. According to the officer, Curnell still had his hand concealed inside his pocket.

"After several seconds, the victim rolled over on his stomach. I then looked toward my holster so that I could re-holster my duty weapon," the officer wrote."Almost simultaneously, I felt the victim stop resisting. As I looked toward the victim, I heard him say,'(expletive) it!"

The officer said Curnell then made a "quick upward motion" with his hand towards his head, and saw a flash and heard a loud bang.

"I immediately jumped off [the] victim, and covered down on him with my duty weapon," Curnell said."Once I realized that it was a gunshot, I briefly looked at myself to make sure that I was not hit. I looked at the victim, and observed that he was motionless and bleeding."

According to the officer, he immediately notified dispatch that there was a shooting and one party was down.

Charleston Police Chief Gregg Mullen said on Monday during a press conference that Curnell's death was a "true tragedy," the loss of "a young man who had touched many lives," and a reminder of the need to be "ever observant of those around of us who may need our assistance."

"It has been difficult for the police department, it has been difficult for the community, it has been difficult for the family and it has been difficult for the officer," Mullen said.

Mullen defended his department calling in the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate after the shooting, calling its independent investigation of the incident the "prudent, professional and accurate step."

Mullen said SLED had just closed the case Monday afternoon, but that he had not yet seen the file.

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