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Citizen: Rules of Engagement

Contrast between the UNCC shooter arrest and the police killing of Danquirs Franklin raises ugly questions, uglier answers

Contrast between the UNCC shooter arrest and the police killing of Danquirs Franklin raises ugly questions, uglier answers

Yesterday, another mass shooting happened in America. This time, in a city I call home. This time, at a University I graduated from. While it all still seems unreal, like this could never happen here, like this campus is relatively small and quiet and tragedies like Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and an entire list of schools happen elsewhere, I know that today, this is real. 

Victims of another mass shooting lost their lives in the same place countless students and alumni have walked across, just trying to graduate, ponder their future, find their class as freshmen, or at the very least, live. A shooter has erased those dreams. A shooter has ripped apart their families.

The shooter–I will not say his name, I will not award him any victories for this cowardly act–was smiling while being taken into police custody. That part right there, the smile while being taken into custody, is the part that has many Black people in Charlotte almost forgetting about the victims of this tragedy.

It was not that long ago that another person with a gun in his pocket was murdered by police. This time it was on a street I have driven down for years. This time at a Burger King many of us frequent. This time the victim’s name was Danquirs Franklin. This time the victim was shot while complying. The victim’s name was Danquirs Franklin. While there may not be video (it’s still early in the investigation) of the UNCC shooting to help lay out the facts, there is the bodycam video of the murder of Danquirs Franklin.

Before the video was released, many said that Danquirs did not have a gun. That was not true, he did have a gun. But he was not holding the firearm when police arrived and demanded that he drop it. Both of his hands were free. The video does not show Danquirs aiming or firing a weapon at anyone. The video does not indicate that people were injured or shot. In fact, when police arrived he was calm, squatted by the store manager’s car and talking. The scene was so calm that another Burger King employee walked up to a calm, unagitated Danquirs and was told by police to move back.

The video shows they demanded Danquirs to put the gun down and then–in the act of compliance, when he grasped the gun by the barrel so it pointed toward himself–they shot him. He didn’t die right away. He lay bleeding, receiving no first aid while the shooter justified her actions to the other officers.

In the days after we were asked to stay calm. In the wake of his murder and release of the video, we were asked to reflect and consider the conversations to be had surrounding this event. For the most part, we have done what was asked of us. So now we ask, after a shooter who is not black is taken without police violence, “What commands did the campus police use that CMPD did not?”  “How not black did Danquirs have to be, in order to not get shot?”

I will never condone police violence but we, black people, will always wonder how does the white shooter not get shot by police. How do they survive those encounters?

Some say that the white shooter has mental health problems. Okay, but this is not about the shooter’s mental health. This is not about gun control or people with mental health issues owning guns. Those are issues that have some real solutions if the work is put in to find them, and if compromises can be made for the safety of all people. This is about how black people are engaged by police, when complying with police, and in the case of Danquirs, the deadly outcome of that compliance.

Make no mistake; we are all saddened by the deaths at UNCC. This commentary should not even exist. The tragedy of this “Only in America” experience of mass shooting has hit home and for some of us the wound of Danquirs, Keith Lamont Scott, Daquan Antonio, LaQuan Brown, Aaron Winchester have come cracking open again when we see how the shooter was taken with a smile. 

We can’t help but taste the bitter hypocrisy of Dylan Roof being escorted to eat at Burger King after murdering 9 black people in a church, when Danquirs Franklin was murdered in a Burger King parking lot of a Burger King for following police officers’ orders. We are trying to come to terms with how to be black and not be shot by police. We are trying negotiate this black experience without dying when stopped or engaged by police.

The question is, “What do you want us to do that will not trigger your gun trigger?” We want to know what the shooter was smiling at being marched off to jail in handcuffs. Perhaps he realized how much value his privilege holds the moment he got to shoot people and walk away. The black folks I know sure got a measure of the value of our privilege. Ours and Danquirs Franklin’s.

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