March 1, 2009, Portsmouth, VA – Before police officers surrounded the home of Marshall Franklin and a SWAT team moved in, all Franklin’s family could do was watch.
The standoff ended with two officers shot and Franklin dead, a scenario, Franklin’s family says that could have been avoided. That is, if they ever got a chance to talk to him.
“He was blocked off from every single thing that he knew,” said his sister, Tony Franklin Dixon, “the people who loved him, the people who he trusted. He was not allowed to talk with us at all.”
“He died thinking that his family neglected him, didn’t care about him, and he was alone,” added Juanita Ebron, one of his other sisters.
Franklin’s nine brothers and sisters displayed pictures of the man who served two tours in Vietnam and had a penchant for painting and crafts. But when he came back from Vietnam, his family says he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“There were periods where he was fine and able to function at a full level,” said his sister, Alberta Thomas, “but then there were periods where he needed to be on some type of medication.”
The medication stifled his creativity, and he sometimes stopped taking it. That’s why his family requested a mental health evaluation. But when officers approached, Franklin’s family says it triggered his condition. He argued with officers, wielding a sharp weapon, but never talked to his family.
“When I got there,” remembered his son, Marshall Franklin, Jr., “I asked them to let me talk to my father.”
“They wouldn’t let me go in there at all,” he added.
SWAT was called in to bring Franklin out. They threw a negotiation phone in the house to talk to him. His family says it would have only worsened his condition.
“If you’ve got a person dealing with paranoia and post-traumatic stress and you’ve got bomb squads and people are throwing phones through your window,” said Thomas, “obviously you’re going to go into a combat mode. Wouldn’t you think? And that’s what happened.”
All the time, his family was kept away. They first found out he died from the news.
Statement from the Family of Marshall Franklin, Sr.
First of all, we are thankful to God that the injuries of the two police officers were not life threatening. However, this incident demonstrates the lack of training and knowledge that the police officers have with working with the mentally ill population and those individuals who suffer with issues of post-traumatic stress syndrome after serving in the Vietnam War and military forces. A mental health evaluation was requested to seek assistance with getting our brother back on his medication. This matter was taken from a mental health screening request to a criminal matter before any shots were fired or any officers were injured. His rights were violated, because he was at his home and he entered his property, which was his right. No petition had been filed with the magistrate at this time; therefore, the police should have left the scene until a family member could have invited mental health evaluators into the home to complete the assessment. Officers would not permit family members, i.e., his uncle who lives several houses down or his son who was on site at the time to talk with him to deescalate the matter. Instead the Portsmouth Police Department called 55 additional police officers, swat team, snipers, bomb squad, and military to handle one 60 year old man (soon to be 61 had he reached his birthday on March 5) suffering with paranoia and post traumatic stress syndrome. Police surrounded the home and invaded him causing him to go into a combat mode due to feeling the need to protect himself . Even after his death, family members were not notified by the Portsmouth Police Department even though detectives were stationed outside of nearby family member’s home where family was gathered. We were notified by the local news and family and friends calling to express condolences. This indeed is a tragedy for our mental health system especially following the incidents that occurred at Virginia Tech when people did not respond to warning signs and the need for a mental health evaluation. Mental illness and post traumatic stress syndrome affects many if not most families. We pray that this incident will not prevent other families from seeking mental health evaluations for fear that it will result in the death of the family member. He could have been your brother, father, uncle, nephew, grandfather or maybe just your neighbor. He was a hunter, artist, skilled craftsmen, builder, and a member and usher of the Garden of Prayer Temple #4 in Portsmouth. We plan to seek assistance from our Regional Mental Health Advocate and the Virginia Office of State Protection and Advocacy. We are also seeking any attorney who will assist the family with resolving this matter. We would like to thank the community for your prayers and your support during this difficult time.