CLEVELAND — The family of Desmond Franklin are offering a statement this morning following last week’s news that a Cuyahoga County grand jury had decided not to charge an off-duty Cleveland officer in his death. His family was joined by family attorney Stanley Jackson of The Cochran Firm to discuss next steps in finding justice.
As we reported last week, a grand jury deemed officer Jose Garcia acted in self defense when he shot Franklin on April 9. A juvenile, who was with Franklin when he was killed, reportedly confirmed he handed Franklin a gun, but could not confirm Garcia's account that Franklin pointed the gun at the officer before being shot.
Franklin's father offered the following comments at the beginning of the press conference:
“We’re so overwhelmed with pain and hurting from the decision of the jury. Desmond was just 22 years old. A family of four, and it’s just so sad that his kids will not see him no more. He was a very well-loved young man, and it’s just so sad that we had to lose him in that way by someone who felt that they had the power to do so. I want you all to know that Desmond was a very good young man, despite what people are saying about him. He was funny, he was loving and he really cared a lot for his children. His brothers and sisters that sit here with me right now have been so emotional and so distraught that it just feels like a boulder is on my shoulders because we haven’t got justice for the murder of my son. He is still free and Desmond did not deserve that. I’m just lost at words with this outcome. I try my best to keep my head up and keep my son’s memory alive, but it’s hard day and night. Some nights I can’t sleep because I miss him so much. His family misses him. His children miss him. He should still be here with us; but at the hands of Jose Garcia on April 9 was just horrifying because that didn’t have to happen.”
We streamed their press conference live. You can watch the entire video in the player below:
The firm vowed to continue their investigation in the continued pursuit of justice on behalf of Franklin's family, including the possibility of a civil suit.
“We do not agree with the findings of the grand jury. We believe that there was evidence that was not presented correctly, and there was evidence that was not presented at that grand jury that would’ve assisted the grand jury in making a decision to charge Jose Garcia with murder," an attorney with The Cochran firm said during the press conference Wednesday. "We are very concerned about that. We believe that is probably the reason that Jose Garcia was not charged. This family is very disappointed. They’ve lost their loved one. We lost a member of our community on April 9.”
The attorney also outlined these five facts, which he said were determined through their investigation of the incident:
- Franklin did not fire a shot.
- Franklin did not brandish a gun.
- Franklin’s passenger in the vehicle did not brandish a gun.
- No shots were fired from Franklin’s vehicle toward Garcia.
Videos show Garcia firing into Franklin’s car.
“In that shooting, Jose Garcia shot five times at Desmond Franklin and his passenger," the attorney said. "Not once did Desmond Franklin or the passenger return fire. Not once in any of those videos do you see that Desmond Franklin has brandished -- or do you see a gun in view in his car. What you do see, is you can see Jose Garcia brandishing the gun and you can also see him firing the gun. You can also see the spark, a flash, in those videos from the gun. At some point, you have to say to yourself with all those things being a factor: ‘How does Jose Garcia walk away without being charged with murder?’”
Attorney General Dave Yost said last week that "[Franklin's] death, under the law, is not the result of a criminal act," while calling the incident a tragedy. "We reach no conclusion about civil liability."
According to investigators, Garcia was driving to work when he saw Franklin and the juvenile stealing a pack of soda from a box truck outside the Convenient Food Mart on Forestdale Avenue (the drinks were later found in Franklin's vehicle). A "verbal exchange" occurred with the juvenile corroborating Garcia's statement that he asked for his gun.
Multiple witnesses corroborated "portions" of the account, and Franklin's loaded gun was found inside his vehicle. However, none could back up Garcia's claim of having the weapon pointed at him, so the AG's office relied on mostly "circumstantial" evidence in regards to that detail, such as Franklin's driving and reports of witnesses seeing him reach behind him for an object before being shot.
Since Garcia was not acting in any official capacity as a police officer, the investigation was conducted as it would be for any private citizen. Under Ohio law, Ohio prosecutors were required to disprove Garcia's claim that he did not act in self defense, and the grand jury felt they weren't able to do so.
Garcia is a four-year veteran of the Cleveland Division of Police and has three prior complaints against him, although none were for excessive force. He has been on restricted duty for the last 10 months while the city conducts its own administrative review.