Newly-released SLED documents address missing minutes in Curnell death

Newly-released SLED documents address missing minutes in Curnell death
Denzel Curnell (Photo Source: Facebook)
Denzel Curnell (Photo Source: Facebook)
A copy of a notebook page SLED investigators obtained from Curnell's belongings. (Photo Source: SLED)
A copy of a notebook page SLED investigators obtained from Curnell's belongings. (Photo Source: SLED)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Documents recently released by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division in the shooting death of a teenager confirm an earlier explanation about missing minutes of footage that some believed would have included the moment of the shooting.

Denzel Curnell, 19, died on June 20 of what was ruled a self-inflicted gunshot wound after being stopped by a Charleston Police officer on the property of Bridgeview Apartments in downtown Charleston.

The new documents include summaries of interviews between a special agent at SLED and a representative of the manufacturer of the surveillance system in use at the time of the incident.

The company's representative confirmed the camera was motion activated and would record for a specified length of time when it detected motion, the report states. The agent and company representative viewed the recorded footage to determine if it appeared any malfunction had occurred.

The representative told the agent that from the angle of the police vehicle at the time of the incident and the distance from the camera, the police officer's motion would have been "minuscule to the camera" and would likely not have triggered recording. The representative also told the agent that he believed that even if the camera had detected enough motion to record for the entire time, "the incident in question would not have been recorded as the vehicle blocks the entire incident from camera view," the report states.

"All motion that occurs behind the vehicle, including the investigatory stop and the incident in question are blocked by the large police cruiser in the image," the representative said.

He also said there was no possibility for someone to compromise the system as far as the deletion of video, and that there would have been no way for a portion of the incident to have been deleted without the entire recording being removed, the report states.

"I also feel confident that no evidence was destroyed and no settings were changed to reflect any different settings," the summary concludes.

Curnell's computer, phone, notebooks examined

The files also state that a search warrant was executed at Curnell's home. In addition to his laptop and cell phone, agents collected more than 50 personal letters, five notebooks and personal papers.

After a review of letters, documents were determined to be pen pal-affiliated letters sent by female inmates from various correctional facilities throughout the US, the report states.

Investigators also found a five-and-a-half by four inch spiral notebook with a page that read, "I have failed my family myself and the Army. To the Person who finds me [sic]," the report states.

Missing minutes of footage fueled controversy

The initial SLED report referred to five minutes of missing footage from the surveillance system that was believed to include the time of the shooting, which was later ruled a suicide.

Live 5 News reported in June that SLED investigators believed the surveillance camera system was motion-activated and would begin recording only when it sensed movement. Investigators also said there was no sign the footage had been tampered with in any way.

"It would start recording when it detected a certain amount of motion within its point of view. It records for a specified amount of time, then stops," Berry said. "The video looks a bit jerky," Berry added, stating it looks like it begins recording, then jumps ahead, then jumps ahead again.

The property manager said she was unable to retrieve viewable footage from 10:27 p.m. to 10:32 p.m. She told investigators she notified the vendor of the surveillance camera system and was told they were also "unable to retrieve the footage."

After reviewing the SLED case files, Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said on July 14 the evidence made it "clear" to her the shooting was a suicide.

Wilson noted reports that Curnell had suffered from depression, but also noted the evidence directly contradicted witness accounts of two adults and a juvenile who had claimed to see the officer shoot Curnell from behind and from some distance away.

"The descriptions and characteristics of the gunshot wound documented by both EMS and the pathologist directly contradict these witnesses' accounts," Wilson wrote in July. "The witnesses' statements are also not supported by the condition of Mr. Curnell's revolver (which fired the fatal shot) or [the officer]'s pistol (which was not fired at all)."

Wilson also stated only Curnell's DNA was found on his revolver and that gunshot residue was found on Curnell but not on the officer, all of which did not support witness claims.

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