by Michael Gordon
December 6, 2022

Federal judges tossed lawsuits involving two of Charlotte’s most-debated police shootings of the past five years before they could be heard by juries.

Now, the deaths of Danquirs Franklin and Ruben Galindo at the hands of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police will receive new airings by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the second highest court in the land.

This story is a subscriber exclusive At issue: Whether the 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 in 2019 and Guerra killed Galindo two years before.

Both sides also will argue whether previous Fourth Circuit rulings — including one in a North Carolina case — have narrowed the “objective reasonableness” standard, which allows police to use lethal force if they “reasonably” believe they or others face an imminent threat of death or serious injury.

Luke Largess, the Charlotte attorney who represents the dead men’s families, will argue that neither Franklin nor Galindo posed the level of threat necessary to justify the officers’ use of deadly force. Both men died, he says, while trying to surrender or comply with police orders.

“These deaths left both families grieving to this day,” Largess told The Charlotte Observer on Friday. “We believe Fourth Circuit precedent does not protect an officer who shoots a person for complying with the officer’s commands, or who shoots someone with both hands up in surrender. We hope the court will agree.”

Lori Keeton, the Charlotte attorney for the city along with Guerra and Kerl, argues in her court filings that U.S. District Judges Robert Conrad and Graham Mullen, both of Charlotte, correctly followed the law that rightfully gives police officers wide berth in making split-second, life-and-death decisions.

Keeton says Guerra and Kerl encountered dangerous and unpredictable circumstances involving armed men who were either drunk and delusional (Galindo) or emotionally volatile (Franklin).

During 911 calls the night of his death, the drunken Galindo referred to himself in Spanish as “the star god” and ignored at least six requests from dispatchers that he leave the gun he wanted to turn over to police inside his northeast Charlotte home.

In his last hours, Franklin had angrily stormed a Burger King restaurant in west Charlotte searching for a romantic rival. He later chased the rival out of the building with his gun drawn.

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