A Dodge Charger circles the block, slow-rolling past the weathered brick buildings and trampled-down green spaces nestled inside the Durham Housing Authority’s McDougald Terrace project. Tinted windows prevent local residents from making out the driver, but they don’t need to see his face to know his identity. Neither the vehicle nor the man are strangers here. But both strike fear in the hearts of children and convicted felons alike. As soon as they spot one or the other, they run.
“He lookin’ for trouble. He always lookin’ for trouble,” says a woman in her fifties, who has lived in McDougald for “longer than I’d care to talk about.” “He scares them. Good Lord, he scares me—and I’m an old lady.”
So when Master Officer Charles S. Barkley was officially identified as the Durham police officer who fatally shot thirty-four-year-old Frank “Scooter Bug” Clark November 22, none of the two dozen-plus McDougald residents interviewed for this story was surprised. Many already knew because they’d witnessed the incident. Others, a twenty-six-year-old man told the INDY, “just know Barkley.” (Both Clark and Barkley are African American.)
“I mean, this is a cop who has terrorized this community for years. It’s always a shakedown,” the man said. “You can’t find me one person on this block who got a decent thing to say about him—you know, unless they lying ’cause they scared.”
Jasmine Lloyd, the mother of Clark’s child, put it more bluntly. “I’ve been holding this in my heart since I was twelve years old,” she said during a press conference last week. “Barkley needs to go. Something’s got to give. He’s dirty.”
That Barkley is, in fact, dirty has not yet been proven. But twenty-five residents of McDougald and Rochelle Manor—another low-income apartment complex Barkley patrols—interviewed by the INDY since Clark died say they had run-ins with him that they deemed less than professional. Eleven women each said, in separate interviews, that Barkley referred to them as “bitch.” And on more than one occasion, they accused him of using excessive force.
In 2006, Barkley allegedly used a flashlight to break up a fight between two teenage girls outside of Jordan High School, an incident that left a fifteen-year-old with a fractured skull. And those who gathered at McDougald last Wednesday afternoon for a press conference—a legal team from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a nonprofit that advocates for communities of color and the economically disadvantaged, joined grieving family members, friends, activists, and neighbors to demand justice for Clark—detailed a “history with these officers,” including a 2014 incident in which Barkley and the other two officers involved in Clark’s death, M.D. Southerland and C.Q. Goss, arrested three people in the Bentwood community “after tasing and beating three generations of one family.”
When asked at a news conference to comment on the officers’ records, police chief C.J. Davis offered no details about previous complaints or the 2014 incident. And when pressed by the INDY about why Barkley felt the need to fire at Clark, she declined to comment, citing an “ongoing investigation.” The DPD declined to make Barkley available for an interview.
But Ian Mance, one of the attorneys who represented the Alston family after the Bentwood incident, says the police “injected themselves into a situation that didn’t require police at all.”
“When it was all said and done, they had knocked Mrs. [Sheila] Alston off of her feet—a sixty-one-year-old woman—they had tased her fourteen-year-old grandson, and they had also tased the child’s father,” he says. “And after they had done all this, they realized how bad this looked, and so they huddled together and decided to bring criminal charges against all three members of the family.”
Those charges were later dismissed, and the officers became the subjects of an internal investigation. Southerland was disciplined, but the details of his punishment were never disclosed. Barkley and Goss were cleared, a result Mance blames on the DPD’s refusal to rely on eyewitness testimony from neighbors who watched the incident unfold.
“We have had many conversations with the city of Durham, specifically the Durham Police Department, about these very officers, and we stated in no uncertain terms a year and a half ago that we believed these officers represented a threat to this community,” Mance says. “I feel that in this case, our institutions failed us. These officers had no business being on the street after what happened to the Alston family.”
But the coalition’s words fell on deaf ears, Mance says.
Just what happened after Barkley, Goss, and Southerland arrived at McDougald Terrace two days before Thanksgiving is still under investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation.
But multiple residents who say they were eyewitnesses tell the INDY that Clark was shot in the back of the head as he fled. That version of events appears to better align with two photographs of the scene and of Clark obtained by the INDY than the DPD’s initial report on the shooting. The first photograph shows shell casings from the officer’s gun located on the ground some twenty feet from where Clark fell; the latter appears to show a bullet wound to the top left of the back of Clark’s head.
The DPD declined to comment for this story. The city’s report, meanwhile—which Davis acknowledged Friday was “based upon initial supplemental reports from supervisors and officers who responded to the incident” and 911 calls—does not contain testimony from the officers involved.
It does, however, say that Southerland “saw a man near Building 60 [of McDougald Terrace] and got out of his patrol car to speak with him.” During the conversation, that man, Clark, “reached for his waistband and a struggle ensued.” During the purported struggle, “the officers heard a shot, Officer Southerland fell to the ground and Master Officer Barkley fired his duty weapon in response.”
McDougald residents call that story a fabrication. More than a dozen agreed that Clark was not holding or pointing a gun when he fled from the officers; instead, they say, Southerland fell down, and Barkley started shooting. Dave Hall, an attorney from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, says the report contained “spotty and inconsistent facts” and omitted the answers to critical questions.
“This report is very minimal on actual facts,” he said during last week’s news conference. “What we have in the actual report is roughly two lines of substance”— essentially, the deceased’s name, the location and time of the incident, and the identities of the officers involved.
He called on the DPD to conduct gunshot residue tests on Clark, his clothing, and the officers. He asked that DNA tests be conducted on the loaded gun police say they found near the victim’s body. And he demanded that an inquiry be made into past allegations of excessive force against Barkley, Southerland, and Goss, and that those findings be released to the public.
The SBI has told city officials that it has no timeline for the completion of its investigation. But city council members Jillian Johnson, Steve Schewel, and Charlie Reece have emailed city manager Tom Bonfield seeking answers, with Johnson saying that she was “struggling to understand why these officers were still employed by the Durham Police Department” after the 2014 incident with the Alston family.
She also speculated that “these officers aren’t the only ones with these sorts of histories.”
“I feel really concerned that there are people who have these track records of excessive force who haven’t been removed from the police department for whatever reason,” Johnson told the INDY Monday night.