The family of Kenneth Bailey Jr., who was shot by Durham police last month in the Club Boulevard neighborhood, has completed their own review of what happened on February 15, and it paints a much different picture than the narrative put out by the Durham Police Department.
Here’s the full statement as released by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, chair of Walltown Neighborhood Ministries, on behalf Bailey’s mother, Louise Pratt, and his family.
On the afternoon of February 15th, a Durham Police Department Selective Enforcement Team (SET) was deployed to the Bluefield community. They arrived in an unmarked car, dressed in blue jeans and t-shirts, with police vests on top. Around 2:15pm, just before the school bus from Northern High School was due to arrive on Glenbrook Drive, members of the SET team drew their weapons and barged through the front door of a home where Kenneth Lee Baily, Jr. (Kenny) was visiting his cousins. Kenny, who was 24 years old, was on pre-trial release, which required GPS monitoring. He had missed his 7p.m. curfew the evening before. February 14th was both Valentines Day and the birthday of Kenny’s son.
Though he had failed to check in with his pre-trial release supervisor, the terms of Kenny’s release did not prohibit him from visiting his cousins on the afternoon of February 15th. Because he was still wearing an ankle bracelet with a GPS locator, Kenny knew that he was not in hiding. Nevertheless, the living room where he and his cousins were visiting was stormed as if the SET team was pursuing a fugitive in hiding.
In a split second, Kenny did not freeze or fight. He fled, running out a side door. Kenny’s flight was a reaction to armed men bursting through the door of a room where he was, according to his cousins, reclining on an armchair. If the emotions of his three surviving cousins are any indication of his emotional state, he was scared to death.
Within seconds, shots rang out across the street from the house where Kenny had been. According to people in the community at the time, the officers never issued any orders to Kenny nor made any attempt to de-escalate the situation. In fact, community members heard Kenny plead for his life in between shots. After the first shot was fired, Kenny plead for his life as he fell to the ground, saying he was down. Two more shots were then fired. Another witness recalls seeing Kenny throw something to the ground while he was running. No one we have talked to saw him point a gun at any officer.
The police fired their guns without regard for the fact that people lived in the homes surrounding them and Kenny.
We believe the aggressive manner in which Kenny was pursued and gunned down is unacceptable. But it is particularly egregious to those who knew Kenny because he had cooperated with a Durham Police officer just six months earlier when he was questioned at his mother’s home, unaware that there was a warrant for his arrest. When Kenny provided identifying information to that officer, he was arrested and jailed. Kenny maintained his innocence, refusing two plea deals. He was not willing to admit guilt for something he knew he did not do.
Kenny spent over two months in jail last fall, awaiting an opportunity to prove his innocence before receiving pre-trial release in early November 2016. He did not want to go back to jail. He wanted to be free, and he wanted an opportunity to prove that the charges against him had no merit.
Kenny was not afforded this opportunity by our criminal justice system. Instead, he was judged and executed on the street while Durham Public School children got off the bus on a Wednesday afternoon.
As his soon as his body was on the ground, a mother called out to her 10-year old child riding by on his bike to turn the other way. As Kenny lay dying, a city DATA bus arrived to get people to and from work on its normal route. Dozens of people in the Bluefield community were soon out in their yards to see what happened. Kenny’s brother was searched and handcuffed when he arrived on the scene, simply because he had his hands in his coat pockets on a very cold day. Officers only released him after the community called on them to do so.
The laws of this land and the policies of our police department make it incredibly difficult to prove that any officer is ever at fault in a police-involved shooting. But we as citizens of this city have worked to document what happened on the afternoon of February 15th because we do not want to live in a city where this can happen. Kenny did not have to die. Yes, he failed to check in as he knew he should with the Criminal Justice Resource Center. But the City of Durham and Durham County’s justice system failed Kenny in a deeper and irreversible way. Kenny’s death demands that we do everything in our power to address the policy failures that created the situation in which Kenny was killed.
The Durham Police Department, on the other hand, announced on the evening of Bailey’s death that he had pointed a gun at the officers pursuing him. Police Chief C.J. Davis said a stolen gun was found near his body.
The agency’s five-day report says officers pursued Bailey across the street, with one officer radioing dispatch to report the foot chase. About twenty seconds later, the report says, the officer radioed “I’ve got shots fired. I’ve got a man down.” It does not mention the officer telling dispatch that Bailey had brandished a gun, although the initial police report says Bailey pulled out a handgun.
The report says officers spoke to three people in the neighborhood to gather additional information.
“One person told officers he heard three shots and another person told officers he saw ‘Mr. Bailey throw a black gun back toward the street.’ A third person told officers ‘that the officers had asked the suspect to drop his weapon several times before the officers fired their weapons.’ This person also told officers he heard three shots.”