It’s been over a week since the police shooting of 27-year-old Danquirs Franklin, and there are still many unknowns around the moments leading up to his death. One thing is clear, last week’s shooting has brought back old questions and concerns about how police confront and interact with black men and boys in the community.
Last Monday the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department says officers responded to a call on Beatties Ford Road in west Charlotte. Witnesses said there was a black man with a gun acting strangely inside a Burger King. Police say they engaged with Franklin in the parking lot and repeatedly ordered him to drop his gun. An officer perceived a lethal threat and fired her weapon killing Franklin.
This is not the first time Danquirs Franklin’s name has shown up in the news. In 2010, then Charlotte Observer reporter Eric Frazier profiled two young men both struggling to stay in school while growing up in a rough neighborhood.
“At that point in my career I had been writing about education for so long and I had been writing about statistics, the huge numbers of young black men who don’t graduate from high school,” Frazier says. “And I wanted to go behind those statistics and just kind of follow one or two actual people and to sort of see inside those statistics and what exactly is it, you know, that is going on with these kids.”
One of the subjects Frazier decided to follow was Danquirs Franklin, a young man trying to graduate high school who lived with his grandmother. Frazier reported Franklin had the deck stacked against him from birth—he was born with drugs in his system and struggled with reading and writing.
“There was this part of his story that will always be seared on my brain,” Frazier recalls. “I guess it was 10th grade and he, at that point, still couldn’t really write. He finally just turned in a paper and the only words he wrote on the paper were: ‘Ms. White, can’t write.’”
Ms. White was the name of his teacher, a teacher who remained in touch with his family even after moving away from Charlotte. She set up a GoFundMe page to help offset the costs of Franklin’s funeral.
Frazier is having a hard time reconciling the Danquirs Franklin he knew with how he died. Frazier says from the time he spent with Franklin, he could see he had come a long way. That’s why Frazier says the ending to Franklin’s story is so devastating.
Frazier remembers Franklin as polite and shy.
“[He was] very much underneath the wing of his grandmother," Fraizer said. "She told me about how she tried to keep him off the streets and tried to keep him busy with basketball and school and she would have him in church with her on Sundays when she would be one of the ushers.”
Frazier spoke to Franklin for a follow-up article published in 2011. At that point things had turned around for Franklin, he was even thinking about college. Yet it was that first article Frazier wrote that stuck with Franklin.
“Both he and the other young man in that story had both relayed to me after that story published they felt seen,” Frazier said. “That really meant a lot to me that they felt like this story had put some wind at their back in a way.”
Frazier says he’ll remember him as a young man who listened to his grandmother and who asked for help when needed.
“He had flaws and shortcomings and things that I’m sure he wished he could do better or that he knew better,” Frazier reflected. “But he always did the best he could and that’s all I can really say for sure.”
This week Frazier’s byline was once again published in the Charlotte Observer. He had an important question to ask that wasn’t too far off from his original one years ago: What does the full arc of Danquirs Franklin’s life tell us? Frazier concluded in his last line, “Perhaps, given his untimely death at 27, it tells us success will always be fragile.”