Toronto Sun

November 1, 1999

Family faces tragedy

'It was horrific what they did. We've had no explanation'


A large, old-fashioned, mostly Catholic, Brampton family is in shock today, working through the numbing details of how to bury one of their own.

Norman Franklin was only 30. He had much more to do in his young life and he desperately wanted to have a hand in rearing his seven-year-old son Paul. But Friday night the door slammed shut on all of his plans and hopes in a way one of his cousins describes as "truly horrific."

Franklin was mowed down in a hail of bullets after being chased and boxed in by -- one witness said -- 10 police cruisers.

"Multiple gunshot wounds" was the polite wording of yesterday's coroner's report, but the family was told that his body was riddled by 25 bullets.

"It was horrific what they did. We've had no explanation," his younger cousin said. "But if they thought he was dangerous, if he was shooting into his ex-girlfriend's house, as they said, couldn't they have wounded him? How many bullets does it take to kill somebody?"

The province's Special Investigations Unit has been called in. Nine Peel officers have been designated "subject officers." Another 12 have been named witnesses.

It was the second time in a week that the SIU was called in to investigate the actions of Peel Police.

Near midnight last Monday, police answered a call on Abell Dr. in Brampton, only a few blocks from Friday's shooting. A man was acting erratically and carrying two knives and "what looked like a gun in his back pocket" one witness said. He ignored police commands. "He (was) not scared of police," said neighbour Hermina Arruda. "He came (at them) fighting." Told to lie down on the ground, he instead threw away his knives and started peeling off his shirt.

An officer fired, wounding him in the thigh. But he still wouldn't surrender.

Instead he pulled down his pants to show police the wound as he pummeled the air, a nearby tree and continued to advance. He was eventually subdued, but there were tragic echoes of that incident four nights later when Franklin showed no fear as he calmly walked away after shooting at the house of his former girlfriend.

His cousin has no idea what Franklin was thinking when he turned up at the white clapboard semi Friday night. The family is surprised Franklin even had a gun, she says.

But they knew the relationship with the woman who lived in that house, the mother of his son, had been troubled for a long time. Recently they had heard there had been a court case involving some kind of restraining order.

"He was a good and loving father when he was allowed to be," the cousin told The Toronto Sun yesterday.

She and other family members have been disturbed by the implication in media reports that he was a crazed "psychopath." "We are a close family. We would have known. We saw nothing except maybe a bit of depression over his son."

But Franklin was reportedly taking anti-depressants and had clearly stepped outside of his usual behaviour when he parked his pickup truck a block and a half away and walked to the Denison Ave. home just before 9 p.m. Friday evening. He fired shots through the window of the house where his former girlfriend's mother was babysitting Franklin's son and the girlfriend's three other children.

Police cruisers were on the scene within minutes and more shots were fired -- at least one of them at a cruiser forcing a woman officer to seek refuge in a home. Then Franklin calmly walked back to his pickup. Witnesses saw police crouched in adjacent bushes monitoring his progress.

By the time he reached the truck a police helicopter with its brilliant searchlight was in position to track the attempted escape.

The high-speed chase came to an end in front of a Coptic church on Caledon Cres. All four of his tires were flat and it is still not known whether he had any ammunition left in his long-barrelled rifle. But witnesses say that as he stepped out of his truck, he carried it with him.

"Can you imagine the fear he must have felt at that moment," his bewildered and angry cousin asks. "He wasn't a big man -- maybe five-foot-seven or -eight."

The terror is easy to imagine with the light and noise of the hovering helicopter, and the air thick with the intensity of a wall of cops who'd already been shot at at least once.

It's the SIU's job to decide what happened in the next few seconds before Franklin lay dead on Caledon Cres. Surrounded by "dozens" of police shells.

But for the Franklin family, Brampton inhabitants for well over 60 years, this has been a dreadful, unprecedented shock

The dead man's father has nine brothers and sisters, most of whom live in the area. One aunt lives so close she heard the shots that killed her nephew. And this large family is "old-fashioned," tight-lipped, stoical, maybe even fatalistic.

The cousin doesn't know how they'll handle their loss. "I loved him. We all loved him."

Copyright © 1999, Canoe Limited Partnership.