“they see killing us as just another brother on the street they don’t have to deal with” – notes on the police murder of Frank Clark

Durham, NC – November 22, 2016 – On the night of November 22, several of us went to visit with Ashley Canady, an Inside-Outside Alliance community member who lives in McDougald Terrace, where, earlier that day, the police shot and killed Frank Clark, a father and neighbor in the community.  At the beginning of the meeting, I asked Ashley if I could take notes on our conversation, and she said yes.  At the end of the meeting, I asked if I could share my notes, and if it was alright to use her name, and, again, she said yes.  Here’s what I wrote down, edited only for grammar and syntax.  Where I took down a verbatim quote from Ashley, I have left it exactly as I wrote it, unedited.

Ashley was standing outside at around 12:25 or 12:30 today and heard gunshots and saw cops, who had been on patrol, rushing up the alley, as though “police done shot somebody.”

The three cops involved were officer Charles Barkley, a black male, Officer Clark (whose first name Ashley doesn’t know), a white male, and another officer, a black male, whose name she doesn’t know.  Nobody likes Officer Barkley, even in other communities where he patrols, and lots of people post on Facebook about how bad he is.  Even other officers don’t like him.  Half of the officers don’t want to work on the same shift as him.  “He’s a bully.  He bullies his own officers.”  He’s been on the force since his teens and is a year away from retiring.  He has been harassing people for years, including Frank.  Frank was known known to be anti-cop, and made a lot of anti-cop posts on Facebook.

Witnesses Ashley talked to after the fact say that Frank reached for his waistband because he was trying to run, not because he had a gun.  He did not have a gun, they said.  Officer Barkley does a lot of raids and confiscates guns, many of which he keeps, so the gun the cops say they found could have come from a raid; it didn’t necessarily belong to Frank.  The police fired eight times.  Two shots rang out first, which easily could have killed or at least taken Frank down.  Then all three cops shot six more times.  “I know he was dead after the first two shots,” said Ashley.  “Why eight?  That was an execution.”  They shot Frank in the head and the chest.

The image of the McDougald Terrace community is also important to this: “Because we’re a public community, they see us as ghetto and ignorant.  Anything positive I do out here, there’s no media.   But when he got shot, every news station is out here all the way to Charlotte.”  Also important is a lack of political action: “Y’all can come to these little vigils when people get killed, but you can’t come to a rally to take back your community?”

When the ambulance came after the shooting, it drove around the community like it was lost.  Then, when it got to the scene, they took care of the officer before they tried to help Frank, even though the police admit that the officer was not shot.  The police came out in riot gear and SWAT after the shooting.  “The police were telling the family to leave and go home” with the body still on the ground.  “They don’t care about us out here,” said Ashley, “so they see killing us as just another brother on the street they don’t have to deal with….They love to pull their guns out here….I think they get a thrill out of seeing people scared of them.”

So far, no churches or grief counselors or nonprofits have come to the neighborhood.  I asked Ashley if she could wave a magic wand and make a church appear and do something, what would that something be.  She answered, “Check on these kids.  Check on the families.  Pray with people and ask them what they need.”  Bull City Outreach Ministries usually comes to murder scenes, but they haven’t been out at McDougald Terrace – because they work with the cops.  “My biggest fear is, ‘what if there were kids out there?’  200 kids watched Kevin Bowling get killed, and no grief counselors came out.  They say nobody called them.  Well, sometimes you can’t wait on someone to tell you; sometimes you’ve got to park up here and say ‘are you okay?’”  Ashley’s daughter “has always thought that police just kill black people.  And today doesn’t show her any different.  And I can’t tell her any different.”

Ashley is organizing a community meeting tomorrow at 1:00 to discuss what happened.  “I’ve never seen a community so quiet,” she said.  “We’re trying not to get the community to side with the police or not to side with the police, but to find out what happened.”  Ashley is worried that “it’s about to get bad for us out here with the police.  The police harassment, the racial profiling, it’s about to get real bad.”  “I don’t think we’re ever going to know the truth because it happened in McDougald.”  “Here somebody is wondering how they’re going to bury their child on Thanksgiving.”

Those are my notes on the conversation.  In closing I will highlight, as another comrade reminded me today, that it has been three years and three days since the DPD murdered 17-year-old Chuy Huerta, and three years to the day since the first community march demanding answers about his death.  Here is a link to a memorial post for him and for Matthew McCain, the father of Ashley’s child, who was murdered by the Durham County Sheriff’s Department while he was being detained in the Durham County Jail.  Let us never forget that the police exist for the express purpose of killing and terrorizing people, especially poor black and brown people.  Let us never fool ourselves into believing that “community policing” or “police-community dialogues” will change this.  Lynching is not just something that cops do.  It is what they are there for.  No Justice, No Peace!  Abolish the Police!

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