NAACP calls for independent federal investigation into Curnell death

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - The Charleston Branch of the NAACP held a press conference regarding the solicitor's recent announcement that a teen's death at Bridgeview Apartments was a suicide.

The shooting led to the death of 19-year-old Denzel Curnell. Friends of Curnell describe him as a quiet person who wouldn't hurt anyone.

"Who knows what he could have been in life. You took away a lot of promise and a lot of hope for me and anybody he was in contact with in his community. He could have done a lot of good things if given the chance, but all possibilities are gone now," said Dwayne German, Curnell's stepfather.

At the press conference, Rev. Joe Darby read a statement saying the NAACP questions why the Charleston police were still involved after they had called the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate.

"The troubling question remains why a left-handed young man who was allegedly contemplating suicide carried a gun in his right pocket and how, in the midst of an intense physical altercation with a much larger adult, he managed to accurately shoot himself in the head with a gun held in his right hand," said Darby.

On Friday, SLED released the details of its investigation. Part of that report including information from the U.S. Army that stated Curnell was having "suicidal ideations" and ultimately cut the young man free from his duty.

Curnell even wrote in some of his paperwork for the Army that he would "snap" if pushed far enough.

Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott said one of the most troubling issues in the case was the lack of information released. She then admitted to not having read the almost 300-page SLED report.

NAACP officials also said Monday they wanted to see the results of the forensic pathology report done on Curnell -- which was released as part of SLED's report -- and questioned the implementation of the police department's "stop and frisk" policy.

They also said they plan to ask for a federal investigation of law enforcement policies and are considering legal action.

Scott has been following this incident since it happened. She spoke to Bridgeview community members the Saturday after the shooting.

"Right now, we are in the stance of finding out more information," she said on June 21. "What exactly happened and why do we have another young African American male killed at the hands of a police officer?"

Another question that arose from the 911 calls were released last week was the response time of EMS crews to the scene of the shooting. Callers told dispatchers that no one was there to care for the wounded teen.

However, records show the first EMS crew arrived within 7 minutes of the first 911 call.

EMS Director Don Lundy said Monday they were told on the way to the scene to stage the area, meaning the area near the shooting was dangerous and had not been secured or deemed safe.

Before the first crew arrived, however, the scene was secured, Lundy said.

According to Lundy, county-wide response times range from 6 to 8 minutes, but the goal is to keep them under 9 minutes.

Officers responded to the Bridgeview Apartments the night of June 20 for reports of shots being fired. Curnell was found with a gunshot wound to his head and an off-duty officer was thought to have been involved.

Almost a month later, Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said there was a scuffle that took place between the teen and the officer but the coroner's investigation revealed the teen had shot himself. Solicitor Scarlett Wilson announced that since Curnell's death was a suicide, there would be no criminal charges against the officer.

Charleston Police Department's case file on the investigation was released Wednesday. Curnell's family attorney Andy Savage questioned some of the details of the investigation, including the department's involvement in gathering evidence, the movement of Curnell's body by EMS workers, and the lack of surveillance video from the apartment complex.

A statement from the organization says the NAACP hopes to bring clarity to the teen's death, and resolve ongoing community concerns, and to include the community as a partner going forward to assure that justice is met.

NAACP officials also announced they will host a meeting with victims of racial profiling Thursday, July 24, at Morris Brown AME Church. The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m.