OGDEN — A man who died after crashing following a high-speed pursuit with Ogden police had initially been pulled over on a suspected seatbelt violation, Police Chief Randy Watt said Wednesday, the day after the incident.
After learning the car wasn’t registered, though, one of the responding officers informed the driver, 20-year-old James Franklin of Clinton, they were going to impound the vehicle. That’s when things escalated.
“All (the officer) was going to do was cite the driver, release him and impound the vehicle. When he approached the vehicle, tried to inform him that, Mr. Franklin decided to argue about it,” Watt said at a press conference on the incident, which occurred Tuesday afternoon.
Franklin died in the subsequent chase, which remains under investigation, and Watt held the press conference Wednesday to clarify the circumstances surrounding the turn of events. Separately, Franklin was facing four drug-related charges in 2nd District Court in Ogden, including two felonies, and was free on bail at the time of Tuesday’s incident, according to court records.
Franklin, alone in his car during Tuesday’s incident, sped off after being told officers intended to impound the vehicle, holding onto the officer who had leaned into his vehicle in a bid to get him out of the car, precipitating the chase. The initial stop occurred in the 2600 block of Monroe Boulevard in central Ogden, and Franklin sped southbound on Monroe, eventually hitting a curb around 29th Street with enough force to eject the officer from the car.
“The officer, fortunately, was close to the grass strip and he landed in the grass strip,” suffering scrapes and abrasions, Watt said.
But the incident didn’t end there. Franklin, still being pursued by Ogden police, continued south along Monroe Boulevard, which eventually curves and becomes Sullivan Road. There, Franklin came upon another Ogden police vehicle traveling in the opposite direction. Officers in the other car had heard radio traffic about the incident but came to a stop upon seeing Franklin’s vehicle approach.
“Mr. Franklin appeared to lose control of the vehicle and struck at significant speed the passenger side of the patrol vehicle,” causing the police car’s airbags to deploy, Watt said. Franklin’s vehicle then ricocheted and hit a second vehicle that had pulled over due to the commotion, finally coming to a stop. That was in the 800 block of Sullivan Road.
Franklin, who had put his seatbelt on soon after being stopped and told he had been pulled over on a seatbelt violation, was slumped over the steering wheel of his car, not breathing. Officers and responding medical crews tried to revive him, to no avail.
“It appears that Mr. Franklin succumbed to injuries from the vehicle accident itself,” said Watt, though results of the autopsy and toxicology reports are still not complete. Franklin reached estimated speeds in the 70-mph range during the chase, and orange markings from the subsequent investigation remained in the roadway at the crash spot on Wednesday.
Two officers in the vehicle Franklin struck on Sullivan Road and the 59-year-old man in the second vehicle he hit suffered light injuries, including bruises and scrapes.
Franklin faced the four drug charges, including two felony counts of possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute, stemming from a June 22 traffic stop in Ogden, according to an affidavit in the case. He had been stopped about 12:30 a.m. that day by an Ogden police officer after entering the 700 block of 24th Street without properly signaling. Apparent marijuana and “a substance believed to be synthetic marijuana wax” were found in a subsequent search of the car, leading to the drug charges.
The investigation into Tuesday’s incident continues and the Utah Highway Patrol has been called in to assist, standard protocol when Ogden police vehicles are involved in a crash.