This story was originally published November 19, 2021 3:48 PM.
Written by Michael Gordon has been the Observer’s legal affairs writer since 2013. He has been an editor and reporter at the paper since 1992, occasionally writing about schools, religion, politics and sports. He spent two summers as “Bikin Mike,” filing stories as he pedaled across the Carolinas.
A federal judge on Friday threw out the lawsuit filed by the family of Danquirs Franklin, who Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Wende Kerl fatally shot outside a Burger King in 2019.
Franklin’s mother, Deborah Franklin, filed suit against Kerl and the City of Charlotte in 2020, claiming excessive force and constitutional violations. The complaint singled out Kerl, accusing the veteran patrol officer of panicking, unnecessarily escalating the confrontation, then shooting Franklin twice as he appeared on police video to be complying with police orders to put his gun on the ground.
In Senior U.S. District Judge Graham Mullen’s ruling, he said Kerl probably made errors on the day of the shooting. But under the law, he said, they were reasonable ones, making her immune to the claims in the lawsuit.
“Given the gift of hindsight, it seems likely that Officer Kerl made a mistake in shooting Danquirs Franklin,” Mullen wrote. “Franklin appeared to be complying with the CMPD officers’ orders to ‘drop the gun’ when he took the pistol out of his jacket pocket. Video shows that he was holding the slide of the pistol, not the grip. And Franklin’s incredulous last words — ‘You told me to’— seem to confirm his intentions nearly beyond doubt.
“But because a court must not judge with the ‘20/20 vision of hindsight,’ the question is whether Officer Kerl’s mistake in shooting Franklin was reasonable. The answer is yes.”
The family’s attorney, Luke Largess, said he will file an appeal.
Charlotte attorney Lori Keeton, who represented Kerl, said Mullen’s decision adds further credence to the fact that Kerl’s use of force was justified.
“Any loss of life is tragic,” Keeton said in an email to The Observer. “However, we are gratified that the Court, the District Attorney’s Office and CMPD Internal Affairs all found Officer Kerl’s response on March 25, 2019, to be appropriate.”