by Kallie Cox
December 07, 2022 4:02 PM

The fate of the lawsuits in two of Charlotte’s police shootings is in the hands of the second highest court in the country.

The U.S. Court of Appeals heard arguments in both cases Tuesday and Wednesday.

Two panels of three federal judges will determine whether the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers were justified in shooting two armed men under the country’s qualified immunity doctrine. Qualified immunity protects police officers who use deadly force if they perceive a threat during their official duties.

In one of the shootings that occurred in 2019, police officers shot and killed Danquirs Franklin who had a gun inside of a car in the parking lot of a Burger King. Franklin appeared to be complying with the officers’ repeated shouted orders to drop his gun when they shot and killed him, The Charlotte Observer previously reported. In the other case, police shot and killed Ruben Galindo, a mentally ill man, who called police to surrender a gun in 2017.

The Court of Appeals will determine whether lower court judges ruled correctly last year in finding that CMPD officers Wende Kerl and David Guerra were legally justified when Kerl fatally shot Franklin and Guerra killed Galindo before, the Observer previously reported.

Luke Largess, the Charlotte attorney who represented the victims’ families, argued that the two men did not pose enough of a threat to meet the objective reasonableness standard. He asked that the cases be sent to a jury to hear the families’ concerns.

Objective reasonableness allows police to use deadly force if they “reasonably” believe they or others face an imminent threat of death or serious injury.

Lori Keeton, Charlotte attorney for the city and both officers, argued that the lower courts were correct in their decisions. She argued that officers have to make split-second decisions in their jobs, and said both officers perceived deadly threats in areas where civilians could also have been injured.

It may be months before the appeals court rules on either case.

Here are some of the arguments from the two hearings.

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