Tuesday night Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney met with members of the public not to talk at people, but to listen.
And the public was ready to question Putney about police training, the use of deadly force, and about the footage from the body camera worn by Officer Wende Kerl. Kerl, a white police officer, shot and killed 27-year-old Danquirs Franklin, a black man, in the parking lot of a Burger King about three weeks ago.
Before Chief Kerr Putney walked inside the doors of the East Stonewall AME Zion Church — which is about a mile away from the Burger King where Franklin was fatally shot — Putney met outside with reporters.
Since the release of the body camera footage on Monday, questions have risen: Were de-escalation tactics used? Why was this video released and not others?
Putney said he couldn’t get into specifics about the case because of an internal investigation. However, when Putney was asked about any other body camera footage besides the one released, this was his response:
"There’s but one body worn camera video footage. One."
Putney added that if an officer were to not have their camera on, it would be a “pretty serious offense.”
Putney wrapped up with reporters and headed inside.
A prayer started the evening.
The crowd was made up of mostly African Americans. There were police officials, journalists, and a group of city council members also in the crowd. Among them, Mayor Vi Lyles.
Ground rules were set. Putney would listen and respond to questions or statements if appropriate, and members of the audience would keep their comments civil.
And then it got intense. The first question was from Minister Shawn Richardson. The question was for both Chief Putney and Mayor Lyles.
"Based on everything that’s happened since under you guys' watch, why have neither one of you considered stepping down?" he asked. "Because I feel like this city has not been more dangerous than the climate we have right now under you guys' leadership. I mean that with all due respect. I’m just sick and tired of being sick and tired."
"Thank you, sir. I appreciate your opinion," Putney responded. "Here’s what I’ll tell you since we’re just being real, we have too much work to do for me to quit. I’m not going to quit. I’m sick of seeing this, too."
Questions came from the audience about what type of training officers receive and if that training involves de-escalation. Many pointed out it was hard to see how de-escalation was used in the moments leading up to the shooting death of Danquirs Franklin.
Others had a different perspective. One woman in the audience urged everyone to put themselves in the shoes of the officer. She pointed out Officer Kerl asked Franklin more than once to put down the gun.
"I’m just making my statement, it’s just the bottom line. How many times does an officer have to try to communicate, try to get you to comply?" she asked.
Ray Coffee who was standing near her, was clearly upset by her comments. Chief Putney asked him to speak. Coffee at one point turns to face a group of officers in the back of the room.
"The police — y’all are under a lot of pressure and we understand that, but also y’all have the power to take someone’s life in a heartbeat," Coffee said.
He added because North Carolina is an open carry state, he used to carry a pistol with him. Now, he doesn’t for fear of getting into a misunderstanding with a police officer.
For Sevone Rhynes, the issue of compliance was a big one. He said a black man doesn’t have the same chance to comply with police as a white man does. Rhynes — who is a veteran — said that was the case in this latest officer-involved shooting
"We do not get the opportunity to comply in a lot of situations," he reflected. "When you consider that for every mass shooting that has occurred in this country, the majority of those being perpetrated by white men, when their lives are lost, it’s because they took them. By in large they are taken into custody."
Yvonne McJetters, a veteran and AME Zion minister, urged Putney to have officers rethink their body language when they interact with civilians. When officers approach a person she said, they often already have their hand on their gun, and that type of body language doesn’t feel like a de-escalation tactic.
"I have two sons and I don’t want to see what happened to any of the young men. I didn’t look at the video. The fact of the matter, I know he’s dead," she said. "He’s not coming back home. Whatever he did prior to or whatever, get your language right. Take your hand off your weapon and treat people like human beings."
Putney fielded questions and listened to statements for over an hour. The evening ended like it started, with a prayer.
And on the outside, the evening also ended like it started, with reporters hoping to get in a few more questions with Chief Putney. Putney confirmed there was no dash cam video. Although, he did say there was other video evidence that would not be released because it would hurt the investigation.
By now, there was more noise Putney had to cut through. You could hear the spring crickets and people talking as they walked to their cars.
During Tuesday night’s event, many audience members shared personal stories about their feelings towards the police. Putney says he understands he’s not the only one in the city that’s hurting.
"I’ve got to continue to listen to those stories because that is the human element that makes our policies take on life," Putney said. "The reason we revisit policies and training is because of those stories. We’re talking about people, not just numbers."
Puntey added he was glad there were police officers in Tuesday night’s audience so they could hear those personal stories, too.