Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Denzel Curnell shooting: Read the officer’s full account

Off-duty cop writes that Curnell refused to take hand out of pocket, then shot himself while on the ground

Posted by Paul Bowers on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 at 3:57 PM

A young man wearing all black clothing walked briskly between buildings at the Bridgeview Village apartment complex. It was a hot summer night, but he had a hoodie pulled over his head. Officer Jamal Medlin of the Charleston Police Department found all of this odd, so he drove up to the young man in his police vehicle to investigate.

"Hey man, can I holla at you?" Medlin said as he stepped out of the car.

So goes Officer Medlin's official written account of what happened at about 10:30 p.m. on June 20, the night when 19-year-old Denzel Curnell died of a gunshot wound that police are now saying was self-inflicted. Police refused to release the account from Medlin, who was working an off-duty job as a security officer for the historically crime-plagued apartment complex, but now the Curnell family's attorney, Andy Savage, has released a copy of the officer's statement, which you can read in full below:

Statement of Officer Medlin

By the time Medlin had caught up with Curnell in front of Building 127 at Bridgeview, the hoodie was off his head. He writes that Curnell acknowledged him, but that "he had a distant look on his face." He also writes that Curnell was hiding his right hand inside his hoodie pocket.

"I immediately got a bad feeling," Medlin writes, so he drew his Glock 21 and trained it on Curnell. Medlin writes that he gave Curnell "loud clear verbal commands" to take his hand out of his pocket, but that Curnell just kept staring at him, then turned his back to him. "I then approached the victim, grabbed him by the back of his hoodie with my left hand, and attempted to escort him to my vehicle so I could pat him down," Medlin writes.

click to enlarge A memorial on a utility pole near the scene of the shooting, which has since been taken down, included an account of Curnell's death that varied from the Police Department's narrative. - PAUL BOWERS FILE PHOTO
  • Paul Bowers file photo
  • A memorial on a utility pole near the scene of the shooting, which has since been taken down, included an account of Curnell's death that varied from the Police Department's narrative.

When Curnell started putting up a fight as they approached the patrol vehicle, Medlin writes, "I disengaged from him and advised him to stop. The victim then walked approximately 3 yards away from me, and got on his knees with his right [hand] still concealed inside his pocket." Medlin says he approached Curnell and grabbed him by the hoodie again, and when he felt Curnell pushing back toward him, he used his body weight to push Curnell to the ground. "I landed on top of him," Medlin writes.

After kneeling over Curnell for some time, Medlin writes that Curnell finally complied and laid down on his stomach. Then, as Medlin looked down to re-holster his weapon, he says he felt Curnell stop resisting. "As I looked back toward the victim, I heard him say, 'Fuck it!'" Medlin writes. "The victim then made quick upward motion toward with his right hand toward his head, and I observed a flash and heard a loud bang. I immediately jumped off [the] victim, and covered down on him with my duty weapon."

Medlin says he called dispatch for backup and kept his gun trained on Curnell until other officers arrived on scene. If Medlin's account is accurate, then as residents of the apartment complex gathered around the scene of the incident, this is what they saw: An officer in uniform pointing his gun at a motionless young man with a gunshot wound to his head.

Police said in a press conference Monday that Curnell's death was a suicide, but three witnesses said they saw Officer Medlin shoot Curnell, according to Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, who has seen a copy of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division's investigation of the incident. A SLED spokesman has declined requests to release a copy of the investigation's findings today, despite the fact that Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said SLED had closed its investigation around midday Monday.

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