On Thursday afternoon, a Baltimore Police officer sat beside 17-year-old Mekhi Franklin on a stoop in Shipley Hill, talking with him and others for several minutes, multiple witnesses said.
A little while later, the officer followed Franklin down the street as he began walking away from the stoop where they’d been talking, witnesses said. He tried to grab Franklin, and the teen began to run. After a short chase, the officer fired multiple shots at Franklin’s back as he was still running away, said witness Davon Smith, 34. Two other witnesses corroborated his account.
In a Thursday news conference at the scene, Baltimore Police Deputy Commissioner Richard Worley told reporters that the officer was on patrol in the area when he noticed Franklin “displaying characteristics of an armed person.” He did not elaborate, but said as the officer approached, the teen took off running, leading the officer on a foot chase through several alleys.
At some point, Franklin started carrying a gun with an extended magazine in his right hand, Worley said. It was clearly visible, he said, and the officer made multiple commands for him to drop the weapon, which he ignored.
But on Friday, several witnesses disputed some aspects of the Police Department’s account. They said the officer had already spent time with Franklin that day, before the shooting occurred. They said the officer followed the teen for just seconds down one alley, not multiple. Franklin’s friend, who would not provide his full name but said his nickname is “Fattz,” said he was running with Franklin away from the officer and did not hear the officer give any commands before he began shooting.
Videos of the aftermath on social media show Franklin lying on the ground, with one police officer tending to his wounds and a second officer standing beside him.
According to Smith and two others who saw the aftermath, one officer picked up a gun from the ground — the one police claim Franklin was carrying — and began pointing it around the crowd that had gathered. Smith said he heard the officer ordering: “Back up! Everybody back up!”
A teen who asked to be called “Jaden” and described himself as Franklin’s best friend said he asked Franklin if he was OK, but Franklin, still conscious, didn’t answer. Jaden told Franklin he loved him, that he hoped he’d pull through.
“It felt like my heart was shattered,” he said.
Baltimore Police spokesperson Det. Freddie Talbert declined to comment on the witness statements, saying the department’s Special Investigations Response Team continues to investigate the shooting. Talbert said police plan to release the officer’s identify on Monday and send out a full media advisory on the shooting. Body-worn camera footage will come out sometime next week.
One day later, Franklin remains at the hospital, his mother Kieria Franklin said. The 39-year-old confirmed her son was shot in the back, and said he was in surgery for five hours. His spleen was removed, along with his left kidney and a piece of his liver. His left lung was completely collapsed and doctors had to repair it, she said.
But as of Friday afternoon, she said she still had not been allowed to see her son for more than five minutes. Police told her he was being detained, and she could not visit him without an officer present. They did not tell her if he had been charged, or what charges he might face, she said.
Kieria Franklin sat outside the hospital Friday afternoon, still waiting to be escorted by an officer to her son’s room, angry and frantic to see him.
“This is ridiculous,” she said in a telephone interview. “I’m mad, mad, mad.”
“I’m feeling like my son was shot like a dog by Baltimore Police,” Franklin added. “Now I can’t talk to my son.”
The officer who shot Franklin has made regular appearances in the neighborhood for weeks, Fattz said, harassing people and calling them names. The officer once drove up to where Fattz was standing, called him “cheeseburger,” and told him he needed to lose weight, she said.
Fattz showed a Banner reporter a video where, another time, the officer followed him on foot as he was walking around in a public place in the middle of the day.
On the day before the shooting, Jaden said the officer had harassed others up the street, then came to where he was and tried to find out his name and look in his pockets.
Police said the officer is a member of one of the department’s District Action Teams, plainclothes units tasked with “proactive” policing — looking for armed people, making car stops and, when necessary, getting into foot chases.
Friends described Mekhi Franklin as a chill, cool kid, who likes to play basketball and football, along with card games and video games like “Madden.” When he gets older, he wants to be a professional athlete or a mechanic, Jaden said.
He attends 11th grade at Francis M. Wood High School in West Baltimore, according to his mother. He spends half his time living with his aunt in the city and the other half with his mother in the county, she said.
He has a newborn son and is a good friend, Jaden and others said.
“He is always honest, and look out for me,” Jaden said. “We were always together. If he needed me, I’m coming, if I needed him, he coming. Anytime I call him, he coming.”