CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said there was no evidence that a police officer fired any firearm in a Romney Street shooting incident that took the life of 19-year-old Denzel "Jaba" Curnell on Friday.
Mullen said he would not comment on specific evidence as the SLED investigation into the Friday night shooting at the Bridgeview apartment complex on North Romney Street is still underway.
However he addressed key points in response to rumors, speculation and inaccurate information he said has been circulated while SLED investigated the incident.
"Mr. Curnell was not shot in the back," Mullen said, directly disputing rumors repeated since the incident. Mullen referred to a statement from the coroner earlier Monday that confirmed Curnell died of a single gunshot wound to the head, and was not shot in the back.
Mullen said there is no evidence that the Charleston police officer on the scene discharged his weapon. Mullen identified the officer as male police officer who has been with Charleston police for three years and is assigned to a community action team where he "works daily with the community and children to improve communities and make them safer for residents."
According to Mullen, at the time of the incident, the officer was working an off-duty assignment at the Bridgeview apartment complex, which Mullen said was an ongoing assignment that's part of the department's partnership with the owners of the apartment complex.
"As confirmed by the coroner earlier today, Mr. Curnell was not shot in the back as has been widely reported," Mullen said.
According to Mullen, there was no evidence that the officer in the incident discharged any weapon, and stated that Curnell was armed at the time of the incident. Mullen said the weapon Curnell was armed with was recovered from the scene.
Mullen also addressed an email sent sent to Charleston City Council and other officials nearly two hours after a deadly shooting Friday referred to the incident as a "possible suicide."
"That's a routine procedure for us when we have incidents within the city. City Council members have been asked to be notified and that's what we do," Mullen said Monday afternoon.
In the email, obtained by Live 5 News' Harve Jacobs, Charleston Police spokesperson Charles Francis reported police were on the scene of a possible suicide that occurred at 10:30 p.m. at an apartment complex on North Romney Street.
Before Mullen's press conference Monday afternoon, Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten released a statement in an attempt to address "a number of concerns" surrounding Curnell's death:
I have become aware of a number of concerns surrounding the tragic death of Denzell Curnell on June 20, 2014.
In an effort to clarify misinformation or misconceptions, I would like to provide the following information:
The decedent, Denzell Curnell, did not sustain a gunshot wound to the back but, died as a result of a single gunshot wound to the head.
The investigation by SLED and the Coroner's Office is ongoing and until such time as it is complete, I will not make a ruling as to the "Manner" of death.
SLED is continuing the investigation.
"I am confident that once the investigation is complete, they will see the officer's actions were appropriate and this was a very tragic situation that no one will completely understand," Mullen said.
Earlier on Monday, CPD released a police report which stated that an off-duty Charleston police officer called for help following Curnell's shooting death.
The manner of death, according to the coroner's office, was still under investigation.
According to an incident report, a Charleston police officer who was working a uniformed off-duty assignment at Bridgeview Apartments called for assistance around 10:32 p.m. in reference to shots fired. The off-duty officer reported that shots had been fired and the victim was down near a building at 127 N. Romney Street.
He also stated that "a large crowd was gathering and he needed additional units for crowd control."
When authorities arrived on the scene, the off-duty officer was reportedly found standing beside his patrol car with the victim lying face down and motionless in the street in front of the patrol car.
"After the senior commander arrived on scene and learned of the circumstances surrounding the death, she recognized immediately the potential for community concern surrounding this incident," Mullen said on Monday."Therefore she made a wise and imprudent decision to contact SLED and request that they assume the lead role in the investigation to avoid any possible concerns that can be voiced."
Investigators with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division were called in after a report the death occurred following a struggle with a Charleston police officer. SLED officials were contacted at 11:35 p.m. Friday, according to SLED spokesman Thom Berry.
The investigation would include if the struggle was related to the shooting, when the shot was fired, who fired the fatal shot and how many weapons were involved, Berry said.
Berry said a report SLED received indicated there was a struggle in which a gun was fired. Berry said one person was dead, and the officer in the incident was okay. Charleston police officials say the officer is on administrative leave, which authorities say is normal for any officer involved in such an incident.
According to Berry, SLED agents investigated the scene until 3 a.m. on Saturday and returned to the area later Saturday morning.
Several neighbors in the area reported late Friday night and early Saturday morning that the incident was a fatal shooting. A large police force was spotted in the area of the Bridgeview Apartments during the investigation. Police officers blocked off traffic in the area.