CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Wende Kerl, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer who shot and killed a man outside a Burger King in north Charlotte in March, will not face charges in connection with the shooting, the District Attorney announced Wednesday.
District Attorney Spencer Merriweather released the findings of his department's investigation into the shooting and said the state "could not prove to a jury that Officer Kerl's perception that the presence, motion, and position of the gun posed an imminent threat to her, Officer Deal, and T.G. was unreasonable beyond a reasonable doubt."
Kerl shot Danquirs Franklin outside the Burger King on Beatties Ford Road on March 25. Kerl ordered Franklin to drop his weapon multiple times before opening fire when she perceived a threat. CMPD released the body camera footage to the public in April amid mounting pressure from the Charlotte community.
D.A. Merriweather wrote the following in his findings:
"Regardless of the direction the firearm was actually pointing, the law affords an officer the right to protect his life and the lives of others by acting on her reasonable perception of the threat confronting her. The decedent did not have a criminal record of violence, but Officer Kerl, responding to two calls regarding a subject brandishing a gun, did not know that information.
The law did not require Officer Kerl to wait until the firearm was pointed at her before defending herself. If an officer responding to an active crime scene waits until a firearm is pointed at her before engaging, it will likely leave that officer with no time to successfully stop a potentially deadly attack on herself or others, even if the officer is pointing her gun at an armed assailant at the time. Therefore, it can be lawful for an officer to take lethal action before it is too late to repel a deadly attack.
Specifically, reaction-time studies dealing with police shootings have concluded that an armed person is an extreme danger to an officer whether or not the person is pointing the gun at the officer.93 One study’s results showed that “even well-trained officers, who are operating in nearly ideal circumstances, with their guns aimed at a suspect, cannot reasonably be expected to shoot before the suspect raises his or her gun and fires.”94
Given the circumstances present, combined with speed with which the events unfolded, the State could not prove to a jury that Officer Kerl’s perception that the presence, motion, and position of the gun posed an imminent threat to her, Officer Deal, and T.G. was unreasonable beyond a reasonable doubt."
It is unclear if CMPD will take any action against Officer Kerl or other responding officers. The department has not released any details of their internal investigation. Kerl has been with CMPD for 24 years, and according to the D.A.'s report, has never fired at a suspect.
"Having had time to reflect, she still believed the suspect posed an imminent threat and she believed she made the right decision," Merriweather wrote.
CMPD Chief Kerr Putney issued this statement:
"The District Attorney reviewed all of the evidence, statements and information that was gathered during the case before making his determination. We respect his work and the effort he and his team committed to objectively reviewing the case. Mr. Franklin’s death is tragic, regardless of the circumstances. We ask the community to continue to keep his family and the family of Officer Kerl in their thoughts and prayers. All of their lives have been changed as a result of the shooting."