Mississippi grand jury clears officers in shooting death of homeless man

Published 5:52 am Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A Mississippi grand jury has found “no criminal conduct” by police officers in the shooting death of a homeless man outside a discount store.

A Harrison County grand jury issued a report Monday about the Nov. 12 shooting outside a Dollar Tree store in Gulfport, the Sun Herald reported. The Gulfport Police Department has not released the names of the two officers involved, and the grand jury report did not include that information.

“After full and deliberate consideration of all the facts and circumstances leading up to the Nov. 12, 2020, shooting of Henry Lee Frankowski III, and the circumstances as they existed at the time of the shooting, the grand jury finds no criminal conduct on behalf of officers involved from the Gulfport Police Department,” the grand jury reported.

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Frankowski, 49 of Saucier, died of multiple gunshot wounds after he underwent surgery, Harrison County Coroner Brian Switzer said.

Gulfport Police Chief Chris Ryle told WLOX-TV that the two officers involved in the shooting were on administrative leave for about one month before being cleared to return.

“It makes you feel good that your officers did the right thing and acted appropriately,” Ryle said.

Gulfport police said they came into contact with Frankowski after responding to a report of a man “abusing an animal and acting irate.” After the shooting, Gulfport police said in a news release that Frankowski “pointed a firearm at the officers,” and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation said he was “brandishing a weapon.”

The incident report the Sun Herald obtained through a public records request only said Frankowski was holding an “object.”
The newspaper filed public records requests to obtain information about the shooting. Based on those reports, the Sun Herald learned Gulfport police had previous encounters with Frankowski.

A woman told the Sun Herald that she and a friend were sitting in a car outside the store when the shooting happened. Vada Thrasher said they had just picked up fast food and stopped in the Dollar Tree parking lot to eat. She said they saw Frankowski with his dog but never saw any weapon in his hand.

“We just happened to be parked right in front of where Henry was sitting, and we had been thinking about seeing if he needed anything for himself or his dog whenever we went inside,” Thrasher said. “I’ve … wondered about the (store camera) footage because it would show that Henry wasn’t causing any kind of disturbance.”

Thrasher said Frankowski’s dog barked at someone, but she said the dog “just seemed excited.”

“That’s the most disturbance I witnessed, and after that he just moved the dog closer to him and was sitting there hugging her the rest of the time before the cops showed up,” Thrasher said.