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Family of Desmond Franklin, the Black man killed last year by Cleveland police, sues the officer

Terry Gilbert and Emanuel Franklin announcing lawsuit, while Desmond's brother Quavon Franklin listens in, against Cleveland police officer Jose Garcia who killed Desmond Franklin on April 9, 2020. [Matthew Richmond / Ideastream Public Media]
photo of terry gilbert emanuel franklin quavon franklin

Emanuel Franklin, whose son Desmond was killed by a Cleveland police officer on April 9, 2020, said Monday he hopes the lawsuit his family filed in Cuyahoga County leads to a prison sentence for the officer, who was not disciplined by the city and not indicted by a county grand jury.

“My heart has been really destroyed by this, because I depended on the police to protect my family, to protect us, to protect our family,” Franklin said during an emotional press conference Monday at his lawyer’s office. “Instead, we got an angry officer shooting five times in a moving vehicle at 2:00 in the afternoon.”

Desmond Franklin was shot and killed by off-duty police officer Jose Garcia. According to the official narrative, Garcia was on his way to work. He came upon Franklin and another unnamed juvenile allegedly stealing soda at a convenience store on the West Side of Cleveland.

Garcia confronted them. He and Franklin separately drove away from the convenience store. While the two vehicles were at an intersection, Garcia fired multiple times into Franklin’s vehicle, hitting him once in the temple.

Garcia was in plain clothes, driving an unmarked car and, according to Franklin’s attorney, Terry Gilbert, never identified himself as a police officer.

Garcia said Franklin pointed a firearm at him first and he fired in self-defense.

The Cleveland Division of Police decided not to discipline Garcia and a Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to indict him after the Ohio Attorney General’s office presented the findings of an investigation by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department.

“We don’t just accept the investigations done by the government and authorities,” Gilbert said. “There is a lot we don’t know about what happened from the standpoint of Garcia because he was treated very kindly by the investigators. There were no probing questions.”

Gilbert added they plan to collect depositions from several witnesses, including the unnamed juvenile in Franklin’s car at the time Franklin was shot. He said there is evidence, which he did not disclose, that indicates the officer was not facing an imminent threat when he shot Franklin.

Garcia is the only person named in the lawsuit. The city of Cleveland and the Cleveland Division of Police were not named. Gilbert said they may be added at a later date.

Emanuel Franklin said he has received no information from the city about what happened to his son.

“We have been failed by a system that is totally broken in pieces,” he said. “Do anybody care about any of these families? Is there any justice for any of us? Or do every police officer get to walk away after taking these young lives?”

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer at Ideastream Public Media who focuses on criminal justice.