Murder suspect captured as advocates defend police reform

Pierce County detectives late today announced an arrest in the murder of a teenager in Puyallup. That news came just hours after advocates for police reform held a news conference at that scene to push back on the idea that new laws are handcuffing police.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office stated it arrested a 16-year-old for the murder at noon today. Wednesday is two weeks to the day since the murder took place.

Investigators said Franklin Thananga, 16, was shot and killed the evening of July 28 in the parking lot of the South Hill Kohl’s store. But Pierce County deputies said new laws kept them from using a K-9 to track the suspect who got away.

By coincidence, those who fought for police reform chose the spot for their news conference today. A memorial to the murdered teenager is still in the parking lot.

They said the new reform laws do not keep police from doing their jobs or from using police dogs to track suspects.

“I feel like it’s a coordinated campaign of political attack against the reforms that were implemented,” said Devitta Briscoe, executive director of Not This Time.

The new laws emphasize de-escalation — using the minimum amount of force necessary — and holding officers accountable for abuse.

But some officers said those new laws can put them and their jobs at risk.

“A lot of law enforcement agencies and officers are looking at this and saying, ‘A lot of people are going to get away because I’m not going to risk my job or risk getting arrested or charged or decertified,’” said Pierce County Sheriff Sgt. Darren Moss Jr.

One of the prime authors of the new laws said they don’t keep police from doing their jobs.

“I do know that officers are not restricted at all from using K-9s and that officers have a lot of tools at their disposal even if there is only reasonable suspicion,” said state Rep. Roger Goodman.

Families of those killed by police officers fought for the changes, including the mother of Giovann Joseph McDade.

“These laws could save someone’s life. Had these law been enacted when my son was killed, maybe he wouldn’t have been killed,” said Sonia Joseph.

Charleena Lyles was also killed by police. Her cousin, Katrina Johnson, said some officers are just resisting change.

“If you are doing your job, and you’re a good police officer, you’ll have nothing to worry about,” said Johnson.

In a statement, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs stated it looks forward to an attorney general’s opinion clarifying the new laws. Goodman said he’s talking with all sides about making any necessary clarifications when the Legislature meets in January.