NAACP Charleston Branch issues statement on Curnell death - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

NAACP Charleston Branch issues statement on Curnell death

Denzel Curnell (Photo Source: Facebook) Denzel Curnell (Photo Source: Facebook)

The Charleston Chapter of the NAACP issued a statement Monday on the June 20 death of 19-year-old Denzel Curnell, calling for a federal investigation. 

Though Curnell's death was ruled a suicide and the investigation by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division was closed on Friday, local NAACP leaders have maintained there are unanswered questions. 

Here is the text of the statement:

Almost one month ago, the Charleston Branch of the NAACP held a press conference to express grave concerns about the circumstances surrounding the shooting death of Denzel Curnell. We noted the lack of information provided by the Charleston Police Department and stated that once facts were made known, we would review them to see if justice had been done.

The State Law Enforcement Division report has been released and Solicitor Scarlett Wilson has ruled that Mr. Curnell's death is a clear suicide. Those findings and subsequent revelations still leave troubling concerns unaddressed. Questions are still unanswered of why the Charleston Police Department rather than SLED investigated the crime scene. The Forensic Pathologist's report has not been released, and the clothing worn by Mr. Curnell has not been returned to his family.

The 911 recordings that have been released show a great disparity in what witnesses reported and what the SLED report concluded. The police dispatch and cell phone recordings from the night of Mr. Curnell's death have still not been released.

The troubling question remains of why a left-handed young man who allegedly was contemplating suicide carried a gun in his right pocket and how, in the midst of an intense physical altercation with a much larger adult, he managed to accurately shoot himself in the head with a gun held in his right hand.

Perhaps most troubling is that the apartment complex surveillance camera which allegedly stopped recording when Officer Jamal Medlin approached Mr. Curnell and did not begin recording again until three minutes later, when Mr. Curnell was dead and Officer Medlin was standing beside his police cruiser. Similar videos used as evidence in many criminal cases had no lapse in recording. If the CPD turned the investigation over to SLED within an hour of Mr. Curnell's shooting, why would they instead of SLED have access to the surveillance tape. The missing three minutes in the surveillance video raise the same troubling questions of what really happened that were asked in the 1972 Watergate case, when an 18-and-a-half minute audio tape gap left unanswered questions about President Richard Nixon's role in illegal activity.

The information on the death of Denzel Curnell that has been released thus far still leaves troubling concerns, even though a Solicitor who has never found a law enforcement officer at fault in a shooting has decided that things are settled.

The death of Denzel Curnell is also a tragic, outrageous and predictable result of a Charleston Police Department "stop and frisk" policy that gives officers considerable subjective latitude in judging whether a citizen's dress, movement and demeanor suggest that the citizen has criminal intent.

The wearing of a hoodie is no more evidence of criminal intent in the case of Denzel Curnell than it was in the case of Trayvon Martin.

The "stop and frisk" policy clearly labels young black men who don't look right to a police officer as criminals -- that's clear an evident racial profiling that tramples upon the civil liberties of law abiding citizens. The policy's implementation has led other young black men and their families to contact the Charleston Branch NAACP with concerns about racial profiling by the Charleston Police Department -- concerns that one is presumed to be a criminal if one is walking or driving in the wrong place at the wrong time in a police officer's opinion.

Based upon the facts that we do know thus far, one thing is abundantly clear. If there had not been a police stop and a physical confrontation, Denzel Curnell would probably be alive and well today. Whether a confrontation is initiated by a "community watch" member -- as in the case of Trayvon Martin -- or by a police officer with a badge and a gun, the result is still shameful.

The reports of racial profiling made to the Charleston Branch NAACP and the clear and evident racial profiling int he case of Denzel Curnell merit the involvement of the United States Department of Justice. Prior to seeking that involvement, the Charleston Branch NAACP will devote all our next monthly membership meeting to a Town Hall Session on the racial profiling and addressing concerns around this killing.

We invite and encourage young black men and their families who feel that they may have been racially profiled by any law enforcement agency in the greater Charleston area to come to the meeting at 6:30 p.m. on this Thursday, July 24, in the fellowship hall of Morris Brown AME Church, 13 Morris Street. The information provided will be sent to the Department of Justice with a request for a federal investigation of law enforcement policies and practices and to the South Carolina Civil Liberties Union for consideration of legal action to halt the practice.

Those persons who are unable to attend the meeting or who fear retribution or retaliation of they speak out can also report by calling the Charleston Branch NAACP at (843) 805-8030.

The Charleston NAACP supports the efforts to ensure that the Charleston area is a safe and welcoming community for all citizens and for African-American tourists, who might find out in tragic ways that Charleston's famous hospitality is not color blind. We will continue to pursue justice until that goal becomes a reality.

Copyright 2014 WCSC. All rights reserved.

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