Police shooting case handed over to DA

CONYERS - The case involving the shooting death of a 22-year-old man by a Rockdale County Sheriff's Office deputy has been turned over to the District Attorney's Office.

Rockdale County District Attorney Richard Read said his office received the case pertaining to Lavonda Franklin Jr. from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation late Monday afternoon.

Franklin was killed on Nov. 27 during an alleged altercation with a deputy that occurred sometime around 4 a.m. when the deputy pulled Franklin over in the area of Old Salem Road and Old Salem Drive near the Old Salem Estates subdivision.

In an interview with the Citizen the day of the shooting, Sheriff Jeff Wigington said the deputy attempted to place Franklin under arrest after he noticed drug "contraband" in the car. Franklin allegedly resisted and the two began to struggle.

According to the incident report filed by RCSO Sgt. Darold Vissering, Franklin was able to get into the driver's seat and start the car, which was a 2001 white Nissan Altima.

The deputy was still holding on to Franklin as he was driving down the roadway, while a passenger in the car allegedly begged Franklin to stop.

"The passenger ... was pleading with the driver, Mr. Franklin, to stop and (the deputy) ordering him to stop," Vissering reported. "Mr. Franklin would not stop and having (the deputy) in a position where he was going to be injured or killed by this car, (the deputy) stopped Mr. Franklin by using his firearm that Mr. Franklin was attempting to take away."

Wigington said the deputy was dragged down the road about 800 feet before he drew his weapon and fired it into the vehicle, which then crashed into a brick mailbox.

The suspect died at the scene.

The deputy was placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation by the sheriff's office.

"We asked the GBI to do a criminal investigation of the matter and we asked our office of Professional Standards to conduct an internal review to make sure no actions taken were outside our policies," Wigington said Tuesday. "Even though the GBI case was still pending, our review indicated (the deputy) followed policy and acted appropriately under the circumstances."

Sgt. Jodi Shupe, spokeswoman for the RCSO, said the deputy was put back on full duty Jan. 2.

The GBI completed its investigation into the matter this month and now the District Attorney's Office will conduct its own investigation.

Read said Tuesday that he has three options with regard to the case. After reviewing the case file, witness statements and other information, he could exercise his discretion and decide there's not sufficient evidence to warrant an investigation by the grand jury.

On the other hand, the district attorney said he could review the evidence and circumstances surrounding the case and draw up an indictment for the grand jury's consideration.

"Or third, I could present the matter, facts and circumstances to the grand jury for their review in their role as the watchdog for Rockdale County," Read said.

He said he expects to make his decision in the next two to four weeks. The grand jury meets the first Monday of each month. Read said if he decides to present the case to the grand jury, it will likely be in May or June.