“I thought they were going to shoot everyone”
Franklins died; Long, Jr. facing life in prison
Confrontations spreading since October, 2o14 Treasurer’s tax auction
Organizers call for immediate moratorium on tax foreclosures
Conclusion of Alonzo Long, Jr. preliminary exam Tues. Jan. 6, 2015
By Diane Bukowski
January 3, 2015
DETROIT – Relatives, friends and community organizers supporting Alonzo Long, Jr., 22, including a half-dozen white high school students, along with relatives and friends of Howard Franklin, 72, and Catherine Franklin, 37, killed by Long Nov. 28, packed the court for the second part of his preliminary exam Jan. 2 in front of 36th District Judge Ruth Carter.
Long faces two counts of first-degree (premeditated) murder in the deaths, which he told police resulted from his defense of family members moving possessions from 15114 Piedmont in Rosedale Park. He said they were confronted by the Franklins, both armed. The elder Franklin bought the home at the Wayne County Treasurer’s October tax auction; it was deeded to him Nov 10.
“My nephew would never have had the intention to kill anybody, and my sympathy goes out to their family,” a woman who said she was Long’s aunt told VOD. No other family members from either side commented to the media.
Long’s attorney, Charles Longstreet II, told the Detroit Free Press that the case “is a question of self-defense.”
Similar incidents, none so far known to be fatal, have been reported across Detroit since the October tax auction. There appears to be confusion over new state laws which allow landlords to remove “squatters” themselves. The laws specify, however, that a court order must be obtained to evict foreclosed owners or their relatives and renters, who are NOT considered squatters, and provide stiff penalties for violations by new owners. They also are extremely harsh on actual “squatters,” putting penalties for “squatting” in the same category as those for “terrorism.”
The Piedmont home was owned by Willie and Margaret Fletcher, and occupied by their grandson, according to a county records and a board member of the Rosedale Park community association.
“The lady started shooting, and I thought they were going to shoot everyone,” Long said in a written statement read by Michigan State Detective Trooper Tracy Walton during the hearing. “My girl Tamika was shot.”
He said after the shootings, he took Tamika to the hospital and returned to his home, where he later voluntarily surrendered to police.
In the statement, Long denied shooting first, and denied stating, “Y’all got guns, I got one too.”
He said he was sitting in a car outside, and entered the home after his uncle called for him from inside during an apparent argument. He said he did not see the younger Franklin with a gun at first on entering, but did see the elder Franklin with one, putting his hand across his chest to draw it. He said he drew his own gun from a holster and fired at him. All three individuals had concealed weapons permits.
Long’s lawyer Charles Longstreet II objected to admission of the statement because Walton was not present for the entire interrogation and because it was not inclusive of the entire two and one-half hour interview, which was videotaped.
“My client said he was not the first person to fire a shot, and he maintained that throughout the interview,” Longstreet said. “My client said Howard Franklin had a revolver, and [the police] did discover that.”
He also said that sufficient time had not elapsed between the date of the new deed, Nov. 10, and the incident on Nov. 28, for a legal eviction to be carried out. Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Daniel Williams countered that the occupants were “voluntarily” evicting themselves.
Detroit police officer Scott Holbrook, who said he had been on the force for a year, testified that he and his partner were called to the home by an employee of Catherine Franklin. He said they found “a lady on the porch not breathing,” and a “man on a pile of clothes not breathing.”
He said Howard Franklin had a .38 Special Ruger revolver. He said it had not been fired, since he emptied the gun of five unspent rounds before putting it into evidence. He said the gun was in Franklin’s left side shirt pocket, with the handle protruding. On cross, he said the gun would have to have been taken out of the pocket with Franklin’s right hand, causing his arm to cross his chest.
He said he did not examine the woman on the porch. An employee of Catherine Franklin’s testified earlier that she had a gun in her hand when she fell out the front door, mortally wounded. No forensic evidence has been presented.
Judge Carter said she would review a two and one-half hour video of the Long interrogation in camera before resumption of the exam and disposition of the case Tues. Jan. 6 at 1 p.m.
After the exam, Mike Shane of the Moratorium NOW Coalition Against Foreclosures, Evictions, and Shut-offs said they and other groups are instituting a city-wide campaign for an immediate moratorium on all tax foreclosures, due in part to the increasingly volatile situation they represent. He said in particular occupied properties should not be sold, and called for the charges against Long to be dismissed.
Newly installed Wayne County Executive Warren Evans previously called such a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures during his tenure as Wayne County Sheriff.
“This [type of incident] can happen again,” Shane said. “Clearly county and city officials are running roughshod over the neighborhoods pushing these foreclosures through. There are at least 20 different kinds of irregularities that we’ve found in the foreclosures. Housing is a human right. We don’t need to be increasing Detroit’s homeless population. People are paying too much on property taxes anyway. The county and the city are not emphasizing proper eviction procedures to the people, and Police Chief James Craig is telling everyone to get armed to defend themselves. They’re sending mixed messages.”
He said the Coalition is approaching 20 community organizations this week to get support for a moratorium.
Along with the 15114 Piedmont home, community organizer Agnes Hitchcock said at least 16 others nearby on Piedmont have large past due tax bills, with one foreclosure, one owing for four years, three for three years, and two for two years. All are subject to foreclosure.
Confrontations between new owners and occupants are taking place with increasing regularity.
One woman told VOD that the home on Ardmore which her husband’s grandmother Faustine Hawkins has occupied since at least 1988 was evidently sold at the October auction. However, Ms. Hawkins had quit claimed the home, where her grandson Keith Dortch spent his entire life, to him in 2012, as shown in county records. Register of Deeds records for both Hawkins and Dortch show no foreclosure action taken against the property. Mrs. Dortch is temporarily in a nursing home recovering from a stroke, but the woman said she is expected to recover and return home.
However, Wayne County Probate Court Judge June E. Blackwell Hatcher granted an Adult Foster Care petition for conservatorship for Ms. Hawkins Nov. 10. AFC claimed in their petition that Ms. Hawkins has dementia, and “the adult has property that will be Wasted or dissipated unless proper management is provided.”
On Nov. 11, the treasurer deeded the house to Tracey Moore of Detroit from the October tax auction.
“She [Moore] got a dumpster and had everything thrown out of our home,” the woman said. “Granny is 88 had a lot of treasured properties in there. My husband got upset when he came by, and the police were called, but he wasn’t charged. We filed to take [Moore] to court, but she didn’t show up for the hearing. Now cars keep riding by our house but we’ve changed the locks and my husband has told them not to come back on the property anymore.”
The new so-called “squatter laws” actually provide for compensation to a legitimate occupant for damages three times the original value if they are illegally evicted.
In another case Dec. 9, covered by MyFoxDetroit’s Ronnie Dahl, Detroit police arrested Jamal Gilmer when he went to the house he had just purchased to get the previous owner, Sareena Patterson, to move out. Angry when police told him he could not order Patterson out without a court order, since she had a deed and was not a squatter, he told the police he didn’t need them and approached the house himself.
Patterson told Fox 2, “When you go from ‘We’re going to work out a deal, I don’t want the house’ to all of a sudden I need to get out, well then you’re going to have to go file the papers, so I can get out.”
Gilmer bemoaned his fate, saying “I had to spend a night in jail. It cost me another $100 to bail myself out and it’s like my hands are tied.”
Channel 7 covered another case Dec. 17, in which the new owner, Brittney Harden, 25, who said she paid $50,000 for the West Outer Drive home, claimed the occupants were squatters.
Fox 2 headlined the story asserting that the occupants were indeed squatters. But the so-called “squatter,” a mother of small children, told Dahl that she had rented the house for seven years from the landlord, who lost it in the foreclosure sale. Dahl reported that Harden has now gone to 36th District Court to go through proper eviction procedures. According to Register of Deeds records, Harden herself lost her home to tax foreclosure earlier in the year.
For more information, contact the Moratorium NOW! Coalition at http://www.moratorium-mi.org/.
New state “squatters” laws at 2014-PA-0223 eviction rights landlord and tenant Heise and 2014-PA-0224 Anti-squatter and 2014-PA-0225 penalties for squatting.