DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Three North Carolina police officers involved in last week’s fatal shooting of a 34-year-old man heard a gunshot before one fired his weapon, according to a preliminary police report.
Frank Nathaniel Clark of Durham reached for his waistband while being questioned Nov. 22 by two of the officers at a public housing complex, and a struggle ensued, according to the report, which did not provide the officers’ full first names. Officer M.D. Southerland fell to the ground, and officer C.S. Barkley shot Clark.
Radio communication given in the report suggests confusion.
Officer C.Q. Goss called for help, saying “Shots fired! Suspect down!” Another, unidentified officer says, “Shots fired! I got an officer down.” Seconds later, Goss replied, “We have one officer that is injured. He is not down. The suspect is down.”
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Clark died at the scene. Southerland was treated at a hospital for a leg injury and released.
The report does not say where Clark was struck, how many shots were fired or whether Southerland was shot.
A woman who identified herself as Clark’s sister told reporters last week he didn’t have a gun when he was shot. The report says officers found a loaded 9mm handgun on the ground next to Clark that was reported stolen in January.
Police met Monday with residents of the public housing complex where Clark was killed, but an attorney representing members of his family said Wednesday that law officers didn’t share their preliminary report before it was released publicly.
“We have no definitive narrative. A gun may have gone off. We don’t know whose. We can speculate all day long it was an officer’s gun” or another gun, said attorney David Hall, who is representing Clark’s two brothers and a sister. “I’m saying that at this early point in the investigation, the police narrative leaves lots of questions unanswered.”
State prison records show Clark had a criminal history dating back 17 years, starting with a 1999 conviction for possessing stolen goods and including assault on a female and possessing a firearm as a felon. He was released from prison in April 2015 after serving five years for trafficking opium or heroin.
A police spokeswoman has said Clark and the three officers are African-American. All three are on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure for shootings involving police officers.
Barkley joined the department in 1997, Goss in 2005, and Southerland in 2006, according to the report, which noted that the investigation continues.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is separately investigating the shooting.