The circumstances leading up to Monday’s police shooting of 24-year-old Akiel Denkins in Raleigh, North Carolina, are now officially in dispute. Though neighborhood witnesses have told investigators that Denkins was shot in the back while trying to run away from Officer D.C. Twiddy, Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown issued a statement Thursday night saying that the two men had been locked in a struggle and that Denkins reached for a gun before Twiddy opened fire.
According to the Raleigh News & Observer, Deck-Brown’s report says the struggle occurred after Twiddy, who had started pursuing Denkins in order to arrest him on an outstanding felony drug charge, caught up with Denkins and grabbed him. As the two fought, Deck-Brown’s report says, Denkins pulled out a handgun from his waistband and began “to move it toward Officer Twiddy.” It was at that point that Twiddy drew his gun and fired at Denkins, according to the report.
So what of the witnesses who say Denkins was shot in the back as he fled? According to Deck-Brown’s report, none of the witnesses who have come forward so far say they saw the actual shooting—only the beginning of the chase. Meanwhile, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman released the results of a preliminary autopsy report that indicated Denkins was hit in the chest, the left forearm, the right upper arm, and right shoulder. Asked whether there was evidence that Denkins was hit from behind, Freeman told the News & Observer that the state medical examiner had not authorized the release of that information.
Video footage of the struggle has not surfaced. Police officers in Raleigh do not wear body cameras, and the dashboard camera in Twiddy’s patrol vehicle was not turned on because Twiddy never activated the emergency lights that are supposed to trigger it.