RALEIGH (WTVD) --One week after southeast Raleigh erupted in anger and frustration over the deadly police shooting of Akiel Denkins, Monday night offered a chance for the community to find a way forward.
"Guess what, it is our problem!" Minister Diana Powell told the packed meeting room in the basement of Revelation Missionary Baptist Church on South Davie Street. Powell organizes weekly gatherings here to confront issues of black on black crime and gang violence. Last Monday's police-involved shooting spurred a massive influx of new interest in her group's work.
"There's a lot of pain, a lot of confusion. It's like, where is the help? So now we're saying we're here to help. But we gotta stand together and help each other," Powell said.
Local clergy, a Wake County District Court judge, and an ex-gang member were all at the head table. They came for what Powell billed as "real talk" about what ails the neighborhood.
"They don't wanna see us do nothing but kill each other," William Swain told the crowd. Swain is former gang member who now works to help other troubled youth turn their lives around.
The details of what exactly happened on Bragg Street last Monday is still under investigation. The police report says Denkins ran from Officer D.C. Twiddy during an arrest attempt, grabbed for a gun, forcing the officer to fire the fatal shots.
The report contradicts Denkins' family assertions that he was unarmed and shot in the back. Activists suggested RPD used an arrest warrant as a license to kill.
"Can a fleeing felon be shot on site?" one community member asked.
"That's why we're gonna have to wait and see what the facts are in the case because deadly force may be utilized whenever an officer may believe his life is in danger," explained Wake District Court Judge Vince Rozier.
There were no easy solutions presented to heal this community's strained relationship with Raleigh police. But it was Swain, the reformed gang member, who offered a spirited defense of Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown, who met privately with Swain and others last week in the wake of the shooting.
"Everybody keep on throwing [Deck-Brown] under the bus. She came out to meet, to open up her hand and see what she could do or see what she could make the police do to bridge this gap", Swain said.
There was discussion about how to change the way young people in southeast Raleigh, who may find themselves on the wrong side of the law, interact with police. And more talk about the creation of a Raleigh Civilian Review Board to help advise the police department. It's an idea that Chief Deck-Brown has signaled to some she may support.
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