by Paul Bowers
Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said in a press conference Monday afternoon there is "no evidence" that an officer fired the shot that killed Denzell Curnell Friday night. He also revealed that Curnell was armed at the scene of the shooting and that police took a weapon from the scene as evidence. When asked, Mullen would not say what type of weapon was taken, but a police incident report released earlier in the day shows that a firearm worth $200 was taken as evidence.
Some residents of the Bridgeview Village apartment complex, where the shooting took place, have been telling the media that Curnell, a 19-year-old Burke High School graduate, was shot in the back by an officer. But Mullen denied that account in the press conference, saying that a lack of information on the shooting led to speculation.
"A vacuum occurs, and rumors, speculation, and inaccurate information fuel a version of the event that can cause anger, distrust, disruption, and misinformation," Mullen said. "It is especially disappointing when this misinformation creates a divide between the police and the community that we are working hard to foster positive relationships."
Over the weekend, city officials received an e-mail from the police department indicating that Curnell's death may have been a suicide. When asked about the e-mail, Mullen said, "That's a routine procedure from us when we have incidents in the city. City Council members have asked to be notified, and that's what we do."
The officer at the scene of the shooting was Jamal Medlin, a member of the Community Action Team assigned to the area of the Bridgeview Apartments, which are on North Romney Street near the county recycling center. Mullen said that Medlin was working an off-duty security assignment at Bridgeview as "part of our partnership with the Bridgeview owners." Medlin has been with the department for three years.
Mullen provided few details about the investigation into the shooting death, which is now being conducted by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED). "In South Carolina, it is customary for agencies to request an independent investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division when cases occur that could raise questions within the community to help eliminate the perception of conflict," Mullen said.
According to Mullen, Charleston police initially processed the crime scene because SLED agents needed four hours to respond to the scene.
Earlier today, County Coroner Rae Wooten released a statement saying that Curnell died of a single gunshot wound to the head and was not shot in the back.
In a press release, Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. wrote the following:
My heart goes out to the family of Denzel Curnell. It is so very sad to have a young life ended. Denzel and his family and friends are in our thoughts and prayers ... Because the City police officer was at the scene, normal protocol require that this matter be investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division. They are in control of the investigation. It is not appropriate for the City to present the complete details until SLED's investigation is concluded. I am completely confident that the results of the sled investigation will conclude that the City of Charleston police officer's actions were proper in all circumstances.