A Tucson, Arizona, police officer accused of fatally shooting a man in a wheelchair — and then bragging about it on social media — is facing disciplinary action, officials said Friday.
Tucson police Sgt. Pete Dugan said a sergeant recommended last week that Officer Tregiano Franczak, who has been suspended since the shooting last month, be fired. The recommendation, which the city attorney will make to the mayor, remains under review.
The shooting happened on Nov. 14 after a domestic dispute at a hospital in Tucson, and wound up sparking a national debate about how police officers treat people in wheelchairs.
In the exchange on social media, Franczak, who is white, bragged about shooting the man, identified as Bobby Joe Williams.
“He was (expletive) next to me. I wasn’t going to let him intimidate me,” Franczak wrote on Facebook before the shooting, according to The Arizona Republic. The Facebook posts were later deleted.
In a video taken by a bystander and posted to Facebook, Franczak is seen standing next to a man and repeatedly calling him a “punk.” The man shot Franczak when the officer tried to calm him, police have said. Franczak, who is in his 20s, took off running but collapsed shortly afterward and was taken to a hospital. Police Officer Louis Mendoza, who is black, pulled him over and arrested him. Mendoza has been suspended without pay.
Franczak is on administrative leave and will remain so until investigations are completed.
Franczak faces up to five years in prison if convicted of first-degree murder, officials said, and could face up to 20 years for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
All three officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave. Franczak was taken to the hospital for medical attention after the shooting and later treated for a knee injury.
“The decision made in each case is both individual and based on the facts,” Dugan told the Republic on Friday. “We’ve all been touched by what happened in that hospital.”
The shooting drew widespread attention after Williams’ death, both for the brutality of the officers’ treatment of him, and for what people perceived as Franczak bragging about the shooting.
“This is how we’re treated like when a black man walks through the door to our county jail? It’s shocking,” Ruben Morales told The Washington Post on Friday. Morales, a social worker, said he and his brothers became homeless after a car crash. They would spend a night on the streets until family members or acquaintances would come and put them up, he said.
Once, he said, he saw the two white officers harassing a man who was sleeping in his wheelchair, handcuffing him and throwing him into the back of a car.
“And I remember thinking, ‘Gosh, these two white police officers really don’t think anybody is watching,’” Morales said.
The shooting was captured on a bystander’s cellphone video, which captured Franczak and the man face to face, arguing. Franczak has some friends who are friends with the suspect, Morales said.
“He said, ‘Shut up. I’m not trying to talk to you. Shut up,’” Morales said. “And they said, ‘Shut up, you (expletive).’ And the officer, he kept talking to him until he said, ‘Drop your hands. Do something.’”
Mendoza faces several charges, including aggravated assault and assault with a deadly weapon. Mendoza has been on administrative leave since the shooting. The amount of time for these cases is dependent on the conclusion of investigations, Dugan said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.