OGDEN, Utah, July 22, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — Officials released more details Wednesday morning after a male suspect was killed while fleeing a traffic stop in Ogden.
The fleeing suspect drove erratically, dragging a police officer with his vehicle, careening into a parked Ogden City Police Department car, then striking the vehicle of a 59-year-old man who had pulled to the side of the roadway.
During the pursuit, the suspect suffered critical injuries, and died at the scene.
Three police officers were transported to an area hospital, and the 59-year-old man whose car was struck was treated at the scene for minor injuries.
Ogden Police Chief Randy Watt addressed reporters at a press conference at 11 a.m. Wednesday, saying he wanted to clear up some misconceptions about the incident.
“It’s kind of a strange situation so I thought I’d better explain it a little bit,” Watt said. He said that approximately 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, an officer observed a small red Honda in the area of the 2600 block of Monroe Boulevard, travelling south.
“The driver was not wearing a seat belt,” Watt said. “So the officer made a U-turn, and pulled the vehicle over. Went up to the vehicle, informed the driver of why he stopped him.”
The driver was subsequently identified as James Lee Franklin, 20, from Clinton, Watt said.
“He approached him and informed him of the reason for the stop and the driver apologized for not wearing the seat belt and still did not have the seat belt on,” Watt said. “Mr. Franklin then told the officer that the license plates on the vehicle did not belong to that vehicle, they belonged to another vehicle.”
The officer got some basic information from Franklin, went back to his car, and could not find a valid registration for the vehicle the suspect was in. The officer then made a decision he was going to impound the suspect vehicle, Watt said.
“Another patrol officer, hearing the stop, pulled up and two officers joined and they had a discussion,” Watt said. “They moved up to the vehicle and they informed Mr. Franklin of what they were going to do. Mr. Franklin put his seat belt on, and then argued with the officers about the actions. The officer opened the door of the suspect’s vehicle and continued to ask Mr. Franklin to exit the vehicle.”
Franklin refused and became more argumentative, Watt said, so the officers decided to remove him from the vehicle.
“When the officer reached in to unlatch the seat belt that Mr. Franklin put on, Mr. Franklin trapped his arm, started the vehicle and drove off holding on to the officer, dragging the officer alongside the vehicle,” Watt said. “The officer was able to get his feet up, grab hold of the steering wheel, which caused the vehicle to swerve quite a bit into oncoming traffic and Mr. Franklin was accelerating that vehicle very quickly.”
The officer was attempting to get Franklin to stop, Watt said, and was also attempting to take control of the steering wheel.
“Mr. Franklin struck the east side curb at about 2900 Street and Monroe, and that ejected the officer from the vehicle,” Watt said. “The officer fortunately was close to the grass strip and he landed on the grass strip.”
The officer was dragged approximately a block-and-a-half total, and received multiple bruises and abrasions, but was not seriously injured Watt said.
At the time Franklin drove off with the officer clinging to his vehicle, the other two officers began a pursuit. They did not see the officer get ejected, Watt said.
The suspect vehicle went south through 30th Street and continued onto Sullivan Road, where he lost control of the vehicle in the 800 block. Watt said it was estimated Franklin was traveling at between 70 and 80 miles per hour when he lost control of his vehicle.
“Another officer who heard the radio traffic was westbound on Sullivan Road, and he saw the vehicle approaching at high speed,” Watt said. “He still believed the officer was trapped inside the vehicle. But he could also tell at this time that the vehicle was swerving, so he pulled his vehicle to a stop. There were two officers in the vehicle.”
Franklin struck the passenger side of that patrol vehicle, Watt said, which caused the air bags to deploy and caused injuries to the two officers in that vehicle.
After striking that police vehicle, the driver traveled across lanes, striking a second passenger car occupied by the 59-year-old man, which had been pulled over to the other side of the road. The man also sustained minor injuries.
“Mr. Franklin’s vehicle came to a stop and the officers moved up quickly, and he was slumped over the steering wheel,” Watt said. “They removed him from the vehicle and realized that he was not breathing. Officers began CPR on Mr. Franklin and called for medical. Medical came but they were unable to revive Mr. Franklin. It appears that Mr. Franklin succumbed to injuries from the vehicle accident, of course we don’t know for sure and we will wait to see what the autopsy says.”
Franklin’s body was transported to the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner. Franklin’s seat belt was on at the time of crash, Watt said.
The officer that was dragged by the suspect vehicle and the two officers that were in the vehicle in which the air bags deployed suffered bruises, scrapes and abrasions and were treated and released from hospital Tuesday evening. The 59-year-old male driver also sustained non-life-threatening injuries which were treated by medical personnel on scene.
Watt said the Utah Highway Patrol will be investigating the incident, in keeping with officer-involved critical incident protocol, which requires that an uninvolved agency handle the investigation when a primary law enforcement agency is directly involved.
Gephardt Daily will have more on this developing story as information is made available.