Durham Cops Hold Community Meeting on Frank Clark Shooting, Media Not Invited | Triangulator | Indy Week
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Durham Cops Hold Community Meeting on Frank Clark Shooting, Media Not Invited 

Police officers stand behind crime scene tape as members of the community gather after the police shot and killed Frank Clark at McDougald Terrace last Tuesday.

Photo by Ben McKeown

Police officers stand behind crime scene tape as members of the community gather after the police shot and killed Frank Clark at McDougald Terrace last Tuesday.

It was five shots. Or was it four? 

There was a struggle. Or was he running away from police when he was gunned down? 

He fired at the cops first. Or maybe he didn't fire at all.

Those who showed up to a community meeting at T.A. Grady Recreation Center Monday evening—a gathering designed to bring city police and residents of McDougald Terrace together in the aftermath of the fatal shooting, by the Durham Police Department, of Frank "Scooter Bug" Clark—didn't get the answers to those questions.

We don't know that because we heard the conversation, but rather because we were told so after the fact. In fact, the media was barred from entering, and residents were told they couldn't record the meeting or take photographs. Residents were also asked not to speak with the press, though several did anyway.

"We wanted to make sure our residents could speak without being on camera," Durham Housing Authority director Anthony Scott told The News & Observer.

"They said it was to protect our identity—to make sure we could speak our minds without putting our safety in jeopardy," one resident told the INDY. That didn't stop the DPD from tweeting photos of the meeting.

City manager Thomas Bonfield told the INDY that he planned to release a report on the shooting Tuesday, after the newspaper goes to press. But here's what we know now: last Tuesday, less than twenty-four hours after the city council voted to spend $1.4 million on body cameras, Clark was shot by police in McDougald Terrace. Eyewitnesses said the incident started when an unmarked police car was seen "circling the block," prompting "everyone who was out here to take to running," as one told the INDY. But Clark remained, walking away slowly until he "locked eyes" with an officer he knew. Then, the witness said, he fled. Moments later, shots rang out.

But that wasn't quite the narrative police chief C.J. Davis provided a few hours after the incident. Reading from a news release, she said that officers "encountered a man on foot around 12:30 p.m. and stopped to speak with him. During the conversation, the man made a sudden movement toward his waistband and a struggle ensued. During the struggle, the officers heard a gunshot. In response, an officer fired his weapon."

Those who live in McDougald Terrace were less than satisfied with her explanation. A protest unfolded the following day outside police headquarters. Clark's family retained an attorney. Then this meeting was announced—which angered many of those who converged on the rec center.

Umar Muhammad, a community organizer with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said it accomplished nothing.

"I believe that the Durham Police Department has taken an opportunity to scratch our residents of Durham behind the ear. I feel like it was an opportunity to pretend that you care, to pretend that you were present," he said.

Dorel Clayton characterized it as "damage control"—an attempt to gauge whether the city's black community was still enraged.

A man who asked to remain anonymous was shocked that only one member of the city council, Steve Schewel, attended. (On Twitter, council members Charlie Reece and Jillian Johnson said they were told the meeting was just for residents.) As for police officers who were present—some were greeted with cries of "murderer" and "fuck the police"—the man said, "This is the first and last time we'll see them over here. And the same thing gonna happen next week."

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