DeShawn Franklin was asleep in his bedroom when police officers, with their weapons drawn, barged in.
He was punched several times, including three times in the face.
He was also Tasered, dragged out of his bedroom, handcuffed and placed in a police car.
“I didn’t even know what was going on. I was just asleep,” Franklin told The Washington Post. “It was just all a big shock and disturbance.”
One thing became clear immediately: Franklin, then an 18-year-old high school senior, had done nothing wrong. But he did fit the description of a suspect being sought by officers: a slender, African American man with dreads.
The incident, which occurred in the summer of 2012 in a northern Indiana suburb, prompted a civil rights lawsuit against the police officers and city officials. Earlier this month, a jury found that the officers violated Franklin’s constitutional rights by arresting him and entering his family’s home without a warrant.
Still, Franklin and his family feel that justice has been denied.
The jury ordered each of the defendants to pay Franklin and his parents $1 for the violations of their rights. The total award was $18 in damages.
The Rev. Mario Sims, a senior pastor in South Bend, Ind., where Franklin lives, said the small award sends a strong message to Franklin and his family: “Your rights are worth a dollar.”
Russell Thomas Jr., Franklin’s nephew, said the whole experience was a “slap in the face.”
“To me, it’s just solidifying that blacks in America, we have no rights,” he said. “How can we fight for something when the system was not made for us in the first place?”
Franklin isn’t a thug, Sims said, and he lacks a criminal history. Still the incident four years ago left the now-22-year-old distrustful of law enforcement and in fear that something similar will happen again. He does not want to be recognized, so he has declined requests from local media for a picture of his face.
“It’s traumatizing,” Franklin said. “It’s somewhat of a burden that you have to carry every day.”
The incident happened about 2:30 a.m. on July 7, 2012, when Franklin and his parents were sleeping. Officers Eric Mentz, Aaron Knepper and Michael Stuk, of the South Bend Police Department, were looking for Dan Jones, Franklin’s older brother, after receiving a domestic violence call. The officers received information that Jones may have gone to his parents’ house, according to an internal affairs investigation report by the police department.
Franklin’s mother, Vivian Franklin, answered the door after hearing loud knocks. The officers went inside without a warrant and without asking for permission to go in, according to the report. The officers told her to stay outside on the front porch.
When they got to DeShawn Franklin’s bedroom, they saw him lying on his stomach and woke him up. Startled and afraid, he resisted, so the police officers punched and used a stun gun on him.
His father, Dan Franklin, who is disabled, told the internal affairs investigator that he heard a “pop” and thought the officers had shot his son as he screamed for his mother.
The officers soon realized that they got the wrong person. Still, DeShawn Franklin was handcuffed and placed in a squad car for resisting. He was released shortly after, according to the report, and the officers apologized to the family.