On Thursday, May 5, Lonnie David Franklin Jr. was found guilty of killing nine women and a teenage girl, in a series of murders that dates back to 1985. The serial killer was the subject of Nick Broomfield’s 2014 HBO documentary “Tales of the Grim Sleeper,” which argued that Franklin was able to continue murdering African American women in South Central Los Angeles because the killings were ignored by the Los Angeles Police Department.
“It’s a great relief to have some closure in a case that’s been going on for 30 years,” Broomfield told Indiewire in a recent interview. “Having said that, I think it is time to demand for an inquiry into why it took police so long to catch Lonnie Franklin, who was not a particularly skilled killer, nor someone who contrived some ingenious plan to get away with it. This 25 years was passable because of the complete police disinterest in the people he was murdering, who were poor black women in South Central.”
Broomfield says he was confident that Franklin would eventually be convicted, due to the mountain of evidence against him, including Franklin’s extensive photo and video collection of the women he killed. The director also pointed to the testimony of Enietra Washington, who was featured in the documentary.
“The police had been taken by the one surviving witness, Enietra Washington, to the very street where Lonnie Franklin lived, saying he drove her to his house before he shot her,” explained Broomfield. “She pointed out two houses down from his. That was in 1988, it took the police another 20 years for the police to arrest him.”
Broomfield believes the way the police dealt with the Grim Sleeper case is indicative of how police handle murder and crime in African American communities across the country. He hopes that outrage over the 30 years it took to convict Franklin, who discarded his bodies on darkened city streets, will highlight the need for a larger conversation about police oversight.
“If nothing else, we should benefit from this tragedy by having a proper inquiry into what the police did,” argued Broomfield. Since making the film, the veteran documentary filmmaker has tried to engage the the LAPD in a dialogue with the South Central community, but has been ignored. “LA Police Chief Charlie Beck has showered praise on his detectives for bringing Franklin to justice, which just highlights — like with what happened in Ferguson and other parts of the country — that until there is an independent body able to examine what the police are doing, nothing is really going to change in this country.”
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