Solicitor Scarlett Wilson expects to finish reviewing documentation about the death of 19-year-old Denzel Curnell and recommend the next step for investigators by next week, she said Thursday.
Wilson has started to examine what she called a "voluminous" report from the State Law Enforcement Division on the June 20 incident in which a Charleston police officer saw Curnell die of a gunshot wound outside the Bridgeview Village apartments.
A police spokesman initially said the case was being investigated as a possible suicide, but SLED's involvement in the probe has sparked suspicion among community members. City and Charleston Police Department leaders, meanwhile, have insisted that Officer Jamal Medlin did nothing wrong when he encountered Curnell that night.
The solicitor said Thursday that thoroughly reviewing SLED's report "may take a while," but that she expected to get through the file and wrap up talks with agents about how to proceed "by sometime next week."
Andy Savage, an attorney for Curnell's family, said he couldn't fault Wilson for being thorough, but he renewed his call for authorities to further explain the circumstances of the case that have made a conclusion difficult to come by.
"What's really torture for them is just being ignored," Savage said. "This is a family that's in mourning and has been left without any consolation."
Wilson has several options, such as recommending that SLED agents pursue charges, fill any holes in their probe or close their investigation. The agents would not be bound by any suggestion, she said.
A similar process plays out when officers shoot someone in self-defense, though the Charleston police in Curnell's case have said that they saw no evidence indicating that Medlin fired a gun.
"My role is to make a recommendation to SLED and to highlight issues in cases and/or make suggestions for further investigation," Wilson, who heads the 9th Circuit Solicitor's Office, said while speaking generally. "SLED makes the ultimate call as to whether to go along with my recommendations or suggestions."
Details of Curnell's death have remained elusive for his family and the public.
Wilson declined to discuss the SLED file's contents.
Citing a fear of harm to a possible future law enforcement action, the Charleston police also have denied three S.C. Freedom of Information Act requests from The Post and Courier that sought to answer some of the lingering questions. Other requests with the department and other agencies have not been answered.
Curnell, a Burke High School graduate known as "Jaba" among loved ones, had suffered depression during his time in basic training for the U.S. Army. He was discharged for that reason in December after spending some time on suicide watch at Fort Benning, Ga.
But family members said they noticed no emotional or mental turmoil in Curnell by the night he died.
His stepfather, though, noticed that a revolver he kept in his Wilson Avenue home in downtown Charleston was missing after he learned of Curnell's death.
Savage later learned that Curnell had been shot in the right side of his head - a wound that could be consistent with suicide. But family members still wondered why the left-handed Curnell would shot himself there.
The Charleston County Coroner's Office had not determined Curnell's manner of death, such as suicide, accidental or homicide.
The coroner and SLED also have refused to release further information that Savage said could temper the community's skepticism.
"Cooperation with the community is essential to prevent and prosecute crimes," he said. "But that's not a one-way street."
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.
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