[PRESS CONFERENCE ]
On November 3, 2015, Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna announced a $50,000 reward and asked for the public’s help with the murder investigation of Long Beach Police Officer Franke Lewis who was killed nearly 40 years ago.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, at the recommendation of Supervisor Don Knabe, last week issued a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the murder. The Long Beach Police Officers Association and the Fraternal Order of Police increased the reward to $50,000. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia is working with the Long Beach City Council in an effort to add an additional $25,000, which would raise the total reward to $75,000 if successful.
On December 13, 1975, just before 3 a.m., 28-year-old Long Beach Police Officer Franke Lewis was murdered in the 6200 block of Cantel Street in East Long Beach. Officer Lewis had been with the department for about two years and was returning home after his patrol shift ended when he tried to stop a crime in progress and was murdered.
About 30 minutes prior to Officer Lewis arriving home, Mr. Denis Gitschier was driving on the freeway, but began to feel tired. Mr. Gitschier pulled off the freeway, onto Cantel Street, and went to sleep in his car. He was awakened by a suspect or suspects violently beating him, possibly in an attempt to steal his car.
Based on the investigation, detectives believe Officer Lewis arrived home, parked his personal car and, seeing this activity down the street, went to investigate. As Officer Lewis approached, the suspect or suspects who had violently beaten Mr. Gitschier confronted Officer Lewis, shot him, and fled. Residents called police after hearing the gunfire.
Sadly, Officer Lewis was pronounced deceased at the scene.
Mr. Gitschier was transported to a local hospital where he remained for several days due to the extent of his injuries.
Officer Lewis’ duty weapon, police badge, and police identification were taken from his person on the night he was killed. On March 12, 1976, Officer Lewis’ police badge and police identification were recovered from a vacant residence at 915 South Acacia Avenue in the City of Compton. Officer Lewis’ duty weapon remains outstanding.
Long Beach Homicide detectives have revisited this case multiple times over the years. Most recently, detectives have spent time looking at the case, locating witnesses and conducting interviews across the country.
The investigation revealed at least one and possibly two vehicles with several male and female African-American occupants were in the area the night Officer Lewis was killed. These occupants were not known to reside in the area. The vehicles are described as a mid 70’s, black top, blue body 4-door Fleetwood Cadillac, and an early 60’s white 4-door Fleetwood Cadillac.
Detectives have canvassed the East Long Beach neighborhood where the murder occurred and are looking for additional witnesses. They are hopeful the reward will prompt reluctant witnesses to come forward.
Anyone who may have lived in the Long Beach or Compton areas in 1975, or who may have been involved, or has any information about the murder of Long Beach Police Officer Franke Lewis is urged to contact Long Beach Police Homicide Detectives Johnson, Robertson or Bigel at (562) 570-7244. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous may call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or text TIPLA plus your tip to 274637 (CRIMES), or visit www.LACrimeStoppers.org.