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No Charges For Off-Duty Cleveland Police Officer In Fatal April Shooting

Investigators identified five bullet holes shot by Jose Garcia into Desmond Franklin's maroon Ford. [Office of Attorney General Dave Yost]
Investigators identified five bullet holes in Desmond Franklin's maroon Ford.

A Cuyahoga County grand jury has declined to indict an off-duty Cleveland police officer in the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Desmond Franklin. The shooting took place the afternoon of April 9, 2020, on Cleveland’s West Side, as Officer Jose Garcia was in plain clothes in his car on his way to work.   

In a Friday evening press conference, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said his office acted as special prosecutor and treated Garcia as a citizen in a self-defense case, rather than a police officer acting in an official capacity.

Yost said the case did not meet the standard of probable cause needed for a grand jury to issue an indictment. To prosecute the case under Ohio’s 2019 self-defense law, it would have been necessary to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Garcia did not act in self-defense, he said.

“It is wrong to assume that a person with a criminal record is guilty. And it is also wrong to assume that a person with a badge is guilty because they are a police officer,” Yost said. “Justice is not what we might want it to be. It is not a preferred outcome. It is not a salve for our anger or our rage.”

After the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers in May 2020, Franklin’s case was cited by criminal justice activists in Cleveland as evidence the consent decree to reform the police department had not adequately addressed police killings of Black residents.

According to investigators, Garcia said Franklin pulled his car beside Garcia's on Pearl Road after an altercation near a food mart. He then pulled a gun on Garcia, investigators said. A juvenile witness in Franklin’s car said Franklin had a gun, but he never saw Franklin point it at Garcia.

Garcia shot at Franklin five times, hitting him once in the head. According to the Cuyahoga County medical examiner’s office, Franklin died almost instantly.

On a 911 recording, Garcia can be heard identifying himself as an off-duty officer reporting shots fired and asking for an Emergency Medical Service ambulance to be dispatched. Garcia said he was not injured, nor was the juvenile in Franklin’s car.

A gun found in Franklin’s car was loaded with four bullets. He did not have a conceal carry permit.

Garcia has been with the Cleveland Division of Police for four years.

Annie Wu is the deputy editor of digital content for Ideastream Public Media.