When I wrote my Wed. July 16 column
on the Denzel Curnell shooting ("How one officer's aggression led to the death of 19-year-old Denzel Curnell"), SLED's massive report
had yet to be released. As such, the column was based solely on Officer Jamal Medlin's account of the evening.
In it, I used Meldin's own words to show how the officer violated Curnell's rights and purposely escalated the encounter nearly every step of the way. Now, as to why Medlin was seemingly unaware of proper police procedure is unknown. Perhaps he was personally unaware of the law. Perhaps the Charleston Police Department doesn't care about such matters and trains officers to use intimidation and force in their encounters with the public. Either way, I'm not sure why Medlin didn't follow the law. However, I've read the Blotter enough to know that the police routinely confront so-called suspects upon only the vaguest, and legally questionable, hunches — psst, looking nervous is not a crime nor is sitting on a bench or drinking from a cup.
However, after I read SLED's report on the Curnell shooting, some of my opinions about the tragic events of June 20 changed. While I still clearly believe that Officer Medlin behaved inappropriately — in fact, I believe that if Curnell had been taken to jail, a good lawyer would have easily guided him to an verdict of not guilty — I'm troubled by one revelation: Denzel Curnell reportedly had four extra rounds in his possession. This is in addition to the six that were already in the revolver.
Those four extra rounds change things quite a bit. Their presence alone seem to dispel the notion that Curnell committed suicide. Although he would have needed only one bullet, the possibility that he would have been carrying a fully, and previously, loaded gun is quite high. But the other four rounds? That my friends sounds like the 19-year-old may have intended to do something else.
Now, what that might have been is unknown and will likely remain that way. Curnell is dead and no one, including his own sister who was at the Bridgeview apartment complex that night, seems to know exactly why the teen was there.
In the end, it doesn't matter what the 19-year-old planned to do with the gun, if he planned to do anything. Officer Medlin stopped Curnell solely because he was wearing a hoodie and walking around an apartment complex. Yes, the teen may have intended to commit a crime, but when it comes to making an arrest, or simply determining whether someone is a suspect or not, the process matter. And it's a process that protects all of us, not just young black men in hoodies with loaded weapons and four rounds in their pockets.