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Franklin Freeman Won't Go Away

DA's office and City Council should be asking questions

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Memo to the police department about the Franklin Freeman situation: This is a big deal. What we have here is the body of one black transvestite prostitute killed five days before he was scheduled to testify at a suspension hearing for an officer involved in a drinking incident gone awry. That coincidence has raised more suspicions then you seem to be aware of. Let's review how this particular body wound up in the morgue before we all end up watching the story on national TV, shall we?At about 3:30am on January 8, off-duty vice officer Michael Marlow, who'd just come from a drinking party in the police parking deck hosted by his comrades on the vice squad, drove off with beer still in his car. Rather than going home, Marlow pointed his car in the direction of the North Davidson Street area where Freeman was working as a prostitute that night. A little sleuthing around the department has revealed that Marlow was no stranger to the area, nor to the prostitutes that worked there. It was his job to know these people.

Translation: It's pretty obvious that Marlow knew exactly what, and possibly whom he was picking up when he allowed Freeman into his unmarked patrol car. Police department spinsters may want you to believe that they are baffled by Marlow's actions. I'm no Sherlock, but what he was up to doesn't seem all that mysterious to me.

There is very strong evidence that Marlow fired his Glock twice during an argument with Freeman over money, and that Marlow had the presence of mind to hide the beer in his car before calling other officers for help -- and to attempt to hide damage to his patrol car that occurred during the incident.

But it was Freeman who was jailed that night, not Marlow, although the charges against Freeman were later dropped and officers involved in his arrest were either suspended or fired.

Then, a month ago, Freeman was found murdered on a North Church Street sidewalk, the only prostitute to be killed in Charlotte in a year. Does the department really think the public buys that this was merely a coincidence? I can tell you that among many of your own officers, the way the police have approached this case has become a joke.

A man is dead here, but so far it appears the department has put more effort into investigating the drunken parking deck party and Marlow's tussle with Freeman -- and less into figuring out how Freeman wound up dead five days before he was scheduled to testify at a police hearing.

So far, the only investigative effort by the department I'd call thorough was the failed attempt to track down which officers leaked information to me about the drunken vice squad party four months ago. Sure, the department fired a handful of officers over the events that led up to the January 8 clash between Marlow and Freeman. Nice public relations move, but I'm not impressed. I know, as do many on the force, that those parking deck parties have been going on for years. That they would have escaped the attention of supervisors who also park in the deck is doubtful. That these officers have gotten away with this for this long while others have been fired for minor infractions is truly bizarre. But that's not the point.

The point is that Franklin Freeman bled to death from a shot to his leg and no one seems to consider it a priority to figure out who put the bullet there.

Freeman's family, friends and co-workers, a few of whom have called me, say they don't trust the police department to investigate this one. I don't either. There should be an outside investigation and the city should pay for it. District Attorney Peter Gilchrist should be asking about this case, and so should the members of the city council.

In Charlotte, it is institutionally understood that dirty laundry is not to be aired no matter what the truth of the situation. It's considered akin to working against your own team. But I don't think the team will get away with this one. Sooner or later, either federal investigators or national television crews or both will take an interest in this, as they should.

When they do, I hope the police department will be able to tell them that it at least bothered to bring Michael Marlow in for an interview about the strange coincidences that seem to have been taking place around him of late.

Bury what you will, but this one I don't think the department will get away with.

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