New homeowner violated proper court procedures, “brandished gun”
Deceased and accused all armed, had CCW’s, as Chief Craig advocates
“Don’t people have a right to defend themselves if someone enters their home with a gun?”
$100 M in Hardest Hit funds should pay delinquent taxes, to keep people in their homes and put money in city and county coffers, says attorney
By Diane Bukowski
December 19, 2014
DETROIT – Catherine Franklin, 37, and her father Howard Franklin, 72, were both armed when they entered a home at 15114 Piedmont to evict its occupants Nov. 28, according to testimony at the preliminary exam of Alonzo D. Long, Jr., 22, on Dec. 17. The elder Franklin had purchased the home during the October Wayne County tax foreclosure auction.
Both Franklins lost their lives in the ensuing events, after an argument over the tenants’ removal of a dining room chandelier and window blinds, described in other news accounts as “fixtures.”
Long, who was helping his relatives move their possessions out of the home, faces two charges of first-degree murder, one count of felony firearm, and one count of discharge of a firearm in a building. About a dozen young people came to court in his support. Three apparent relatives of the Franklins also attended.
According to police, Long and the deceased parties all had concealed weapons permits.
“I saw Cat outside with a firearm in her hand when she came stumbling out,” Carlos Williams, an employee of the Franklins, testified, after defense attorney Charles Longstreet II refreshed his memory with the statement he gave police that day. Williams said she was bloodied and fell face first onto the porch.
He and another employee said the younger Franklin had paperwork from the treasurer’s auction which she showed to the occupants and to police when they came to the scene at the beginning of events. The Franklins called them around 3:30 p.m.
Police left shortly afterwards, after getting the Franklins to agree to give the occupants more time to move, according to DPD Chief Information Officer Michael Woody.
Williams and another employee identified Long during the hearing as the man they saw enter the house during the argument, which took place hours later, around 9:30 p.m.
Williams said he left the house when he saw guns being produced inside. On cross-exam, he said he did see the elder Franklin with his gun in hand. He said someone “got loud” with Franklin and put their hands on him.
He said a man in the house told Franklin that the police said they had time to “get their stuff out,” and “now you’re brandishing firearms.” He said the man said, “Go get Junior.”
Williams said Alonzo Long, Jr., who had been sitting in a car in the driveway, entered the house, crossing paths with Williams as Williams ran out.
He said Long had a gun held at his side “stiff-arm” style, pointing downward. He said after he left, he saw Long fire the gun but could not see where he was aiming. He said he saw three “muzzle flashes” and then heard five more gunshots as he ran.
Williams told 36th District Judge Ruth Carter that other than his employers, there were three women and one man in the home. Police earlier said one of the women was wounded, and that the man was taken into custody on an unrelated count.
There was no forensic or ballistics testimony given to identify the guns, bullets, or trajectories. Two police officers are still set to testify at a continuation of the exam Jan. 2, 2015. Defense attorney Longstreet moved for production of the court file at the end of the session, indicating that it was evidently not available at the time. He reserved comment for after the conclusion of the exam.
Both employees appeared to be traumatized by the event. Williams said he told those involved, “It doesn’t have to be like this,” before he ran out.
Although both employees said the younger Franklin bought the home in an October Wayne County tax foreclosure auction, Wayne County records show the elder Franklin purchased the home, which is registered in his name under Quit Claim Deed 2014439726, dated Nov. 10, 2014. (See Howard Franklin QCD.) VOD was not able to locate an eviction proceedings file on the address in 36th District Court.
“The police came up with a peaceful resolution,” Sgt. Woody told VOD. “They had no more duties at the scene. We train our officers always to refer a landlord-tenant issue to the courts, because it is a civil matter.”
Attorney Jerome Goldberg, who handles many foreclosure and eviction cases, said the new owners had no right to go to the home without initiating the eviction through 36th District Court. (See Eviction Procedures at 36th District Court Eviction procedures.)
Even the Wayne County Treasurer’s auction bidding rules say with regard to a winning bidder, “Occupied structures should not be entered without the occupant’s permission.” (See Wayne County Treasurer Bidding_Rules.)
Community activist and homeowner Agnes Hitchcock, who attended the hearing, said, “I would blame the Treasurer. They should make clear to people who have the highest bid that they have no legal right to an occupied property without going through the courts, even if they have a deed in hand. It’s unfortunate they were strapped, because that gives a sense of power, and things don’t always work out the way they expect.”
The proper process takes weeks. If affirmed with a Writ of Eviction signed by a judge, Wayne County Bailiffs, not Detroit police, are responsible for the eviction.
“The police should have told them to get away from the property, to go through the courts first,” Goldberg said. “A chandelier and blinds aren’t ‘fixtures.’ They could very well have belonged to the original owner. Don’t people have a right to defend themselves when someone enters their property with a gun?”
Detroit Police Chief James Craig has repeatedly encouraged “law-abiding” citizens to arm themselves and obtain CCW’s. He said such action “translates into crime reduction.” He was featured on the cover of the June, 2014 issue of the National Rifle Association’s magazine as a result. Shootings by homeowners of people they suspected were trying to enter their homes escalated after his remarks. In this case, however, the Prosecutor’s office appears to have blamed the occupants, not the intruders.
Goldberg said the events were particularly tragic because the State of Michigan just got another $100 million in Hardest-Hit Funds from the federal government, to distribute to cities in the state.
“Over 32,000 occupied homes are going into tax foreclosure now,” he said. “What’s owed in taxes doesn’t approach the real value of the home. The Hardest Hit funds, which are meant to keep people in their homes, should be used to pay delinquent city and county taxes, benefitting both the governments and the homeowners.”
Instead, he said, the city is using them for “blight removal,” to demolish houses, with no objection from the Obama administration.
Goldberg noted that the City of Detroit paid $82 million in “chargebacks” to Wayne County this year, after homes the county purchased from the city were sold at auction at a lesser value than the county paid. The city also paid $21 million in chargebacks on delinquent water bills attached to the properties.
“That’s the largest item in the city’s budget and should have been looked at during the bankruptcy proceedings,” Goldberg said. He added that he asked Assistant Wayne County Treasurer David Szymanski last year to initiate a moratorium on tax foreclosures, but Szymanski refused to do so.
Meanwhile, every tax foreclosure auction, which includes numerous “blight bundles” of properties, brings wealthy speculators from across the globe and other bidders, including non-profits, out of the woodwork like termites to feast on the wreckage of the city’s neighborhoods.
(See 2014 DETROIT BLIGHT_BUNDLE_AuctionItems for list of Detroit properties bundled for purchase by one bidder, for demolition. THERE ARE 118 PAGES OF PROPERTIES LISTED.)
It is questionable whether most of the homes in the auctions have been legally foreclosed.
Bidding rules say, “The Treasurer assumes no liability for any lien, encumbrance, or easement, recorded or not recorded, which was not cancelled by the Foreclosure Judgment of the property under MCL 211.78k. It is the responsibility of the bidder to research the existence of any liens or encumbrances . . . .”
Cornell Squires, of We the People for the People, which assists many homeowners facing foreclosure, told VOD that many Sheriff’s deeds are illegally executed, with unsworn county employees operating both as deputy sheriffs to sign the deeds, and as notaries.
“I think the charges were brought against the young man because of the image of young Black men being portrayed in the media,” Squires said. “How are we going to protect our young Black men?”
Noted foreclosure attorney Vanessa Fluker said she has fought hundreds of illegal evictions, including one involving an elderly woman whose senior citizen tax exemption was not taken into account by the Treasurer’s office.
“What would you do if someone showed up on your porch with a gun?” she asked.
The Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions, and Shut-offs, which fights such actions on a broad level, can be reached at 313-680-5508 or 313-319-0870. Its website is at http://moratorium-mi.org/. We the People for the People can be reached at 313-460-3175.