Bridgeview family's attorney says many questions still to be answered
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The teen shot and killed late Friday night at a downtown Charleston apartment complex had a single gunshot wound to the head, according to a statement from the Charleston County Coroner's Office released Monday.
Coroner Rae Wooten said the teen, 19-year-old Denzell Curnell, had been shot once in the head. He had not been shot in the back, she said in an attempt to "clarify misinformation or misconceptions."
After a police press conference Monday afternoon, attorney Andy Savage -- who is representing the family of the dead teen -- said facts about the shooting still needed to surface.
He said forensic evidence would be key in figuring out what happened.
"What's the examination of the residue on the hands of the deceased? On the hands of the officer involved?" he asked. "What will that tell up? What is the analysis of the weapon used? Whose was it? Under what circumstances was it fired? I think the best thing to do is remain calm, not get all emotional, and see what the facts are and proceed accordingly."
During a media briefing Monday afternoon, Police Chief Greg Mullen said repeatedly there is no evidence his officer fired a weapon during the incident. He also said Curnell was armed.
"There was no information presented to suggest our officer fired a weapon or that he was involved in the death of Denzell and I am confident the investigation will bear that out. However, when the senior commander arrived on scene and learned of circumstances surrounding the death, she recognized immediately the potential for community concern surrounding this incident. Therefore she made a wise and prudent decision to contact SLED," Mullen said.
The officer involved, Jamal Medlin, has been a member of the department for three years and is also a member of the community response team, Mullen said. The officer was on an off-duty security assignment at the time of the shooting, Mullen said.
After the briefing ended, Charleston's mayor released a statement expressing condolences for Curnell's family and the community.
"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," Mayor Joe Riley said.
Officers responded to the Bridgeview Apartments late Friday night to reports of shots being fired, a police report released Monday states.
The report lists the incident as a death investigation, not a shooting or a homicide.
According to the report, an off-duty, uniformed officer called for help at the apartment complex around 10:30 p.m. Friday. The officer reported that shots had been fired and a person was down near one of the buildings.
The officer "advised that a large crowd was gathering and he needed additional units for crowd control," the report states.
The subject, later identified as 19-year-old Denzell Curnell, was lying face down in the street in front of the officer's car, according to the report.
The State Law Enforcement Division took over the investigation into the shooting about an hour later in an effort to see who fired the shots that killed Curnell.
SLED agents are still trying to determine what happened at the apartment complex. Right now, they say they know there was a confrontation between a police officer and another person, shots were fired, and the person died.
This is the 23rd potential officer-involved shooting investigation of 2014, officials said.
Comfort and kind words came from NAACP President Dot Scott who tried to soothe the pain of a teenaged girl who lost a high school friend in the shooting.
"Him not being in the gang or his name is not in the street to see that he has to be laying in casket at the age of 19, that's just sad. I'm 19 and I don't know what's promised. Tomorrow is not promised," said Bria Brown, Curnell's friend.
Family and friends were in tears after hearing Curnell, also known as Jaba, was shot and killed. Charleston police blocked off the crime scene for hours as neighbors stood outside their homes.
"When Jaba was killed and he was just laying out there on the curb, it's kind of disappointing and it's just really hard to swallow," Brown said.
Brown described Curnell as a quiet person who would do anything for anyone.
"He don't get into trouble. He don't mess with no one," she said.
Scott spoke to members of the community on Saturday.
"Right now, we are in the stance of finding out more information," she said. "What exactly happened and why do we have another young African American male killed at the hands of a police officer?"
The officer was not injured, SLED officials said. Police said the officer had been placed on administrative duties until SLED completed its investigation.
A petition was created on the website Change.org asking for the termination and prosecution of the officer believed to be involved. If the petition garners 5,000 signatures, it will be sent to SLED. As of June 23, the goal was already halfway met.
A campaign for the petition is also spreading across social media using the hashtag #JusticeforJaba.