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The Firing of Captain Mark Gagan

The surprising dismissal of the well-liked Richmond police captain and a series of other scandals threaten to tarnish the reputation of a police department once held as a national model of reform.



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The horror of the killing attracted the media and soon the streets around Rheem Avenue and 28th Street were clogged with TV news trucks. Tan arrived and began talking to the press. In multiple interviews, Tan talked about how Richmond police officers were disturbed and "anguished" by the killing. "We're having a hard time dealing with this because most of us are parents just like myself," Tan said in one interview. In another, he said, "Domestic violence cases are always very difficult situations. This one tugged at everyone's heart strings." In the days that followed, Tan told a San Francisco Chronicle reporter that the Richmond Police Department had done everything it could have.

What Tan failed to mention was that Richmond police were called to Franklin's home the night before.

On the evening of April 3, 2017, Franklin had hit the Panic Button app on her phone because McBride showed up to her front door and was making threats. According to the DA's public case filings, that evening McBride had made "credible threats with the intent that Rashanda Franklin be placed in reasonable fear for her safety."

Two Richmond police officers, Thomas Peterson and Michael Pagaling, were dispatched to Franklin's home, where she lived with her mother and two sons. When the officers arrived, they handcuffed McBride and Peterson conducted a short interview with Franklin. Then the two officers uncuffed McBride and left within 19 minutes of arriving, according to dispatch records.

Although the two officers did not arrest McBride, there was enough cause for them to do so. According to the DA's public case filings, McBride had been stalking Franklin for weeks and had physically attacked her one month prior at her sons' daycare. He had also repeatedly threatened to kill her, and at least one of those threats was made while standing on Franklin's front porch. According to the California Penal Code and the Richmond Police Policy Manual, each of those incidents were serious enough to warrant an arrest. In addition, McBride had previously been convicted of assault with a firearm. Combined, those incidents identified McBride as potentially lethal, according to the Richmond Police Policy Manual.

Given the circumstances, the Richmond Police Policy Manual required Peterson and Pagaling to interview all household residents, including Franklin's two children. Also according to the police manual, the officers should have conducted a "Domestic Violence Lethality Assessment," which is a series of questions posed to the victim of domestic violence that determines the risk of future violence. The assessment would likely have determined that Franklin was in "high danger," a designation used for a victim who is in the greatest risk of being killed, according to the policy manual.

Furthermore, Peterson and Pagaling violated numerous sections of the California Penal Code by not filing a domestic violence and stalking report, which is also required by department policy.

And perhaps most alarming, the two officers faced no disciplinary action for dereliction of duty and their failure to follow department protocol. Chief Brown did not respond to phone calls or emails regarding the department's response to Franklin's domestic violence call on April 3, 2017.

Franklin's mother, Barbara Porter, is frail from health problems but has not shrunk from the responsibility of caring for her daughter's two young sons. She said they are doing well given the trauma they experienced. More than a year later, Porter still thinks about the police officers who came to her home the night before her daughter was killed.

"I thought they could have done more," Porter said. "The police weren't here that long. They talked to [McBride] outside and got him to go and then they left."

Porter said she misses her daughter and that life has become more of a struggle without her. "I was depending on her quite a bit," she said.

For Gagan, the Franklin case was deeply distressing. According to a medical report, Gagan had already been experiencing symptoms such as sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, and sudden and disturbing memories. And he was self-medicating with alcohol.

After Gagan and his supervisor, Assistant Chief Bisa French, visited Franklin's mother and her two grandsons two days after the killing, the stress became too much to bear.

Gagan said he spent some time with the two children in the living room, showing them pictures on his cell phone and asking them about school. Suddenly, one of Franklin's sons, without any prompting, referred to the killing he had witnessed: "Mommy was snoring and she wouldn't wake up," he said.

After leaving Franklin's home, Gagan and French solemnly climbed into their command staff vehicle, and in the tinted, half-privacy of the black SUV, Gagan began to weep. He turned to French and said, "I can't do this anymore."

Gagan went on medical leave, which he spent at the West Coast Post-Trauma Retreat in Angwin, Calif. The retreat helps first responders deal with work-related stress. At the retreat, Gagan was able to attach the symptoms he had been experiencing to a diagnoses of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The killing of Franklin triggered a crisis for Gagan, according to a medical evaluation. Gagan's 23 years of being closely involved with families who had been decimated by brutal killings, rape, and drug addiction had accumulated into a persistent and diagnosable mental anguish.

Gagan maintained his work schedule despite the diagnosis of PTSD. As he began to learn more about the condition and effective ways to deal with the symptoms, things began to go much better at work and in his personal life. But he was still in a weakened and vulnerable state, and that's when his old friend Allwyn Brown turned on him.