Gorman Standoff Traps Kansas Murder Suspect

  • L.A. County Sheriff?s deputies and CHP officers assemble to arrest Franklin Grammer, wanted for the murder of his wife in Kansas City.

    L.A. County Sheriff?s deputies and CHP officers assemble to arrest Franklin Grammer, wanted for the murder of his wife in Kansas City.

Reported by Katy Penland, with Gary Meyer

It was 4 a.m. and Jeremy Davis was headed home to Mendocino on Interstate 5 when he blew a tire just before the Gorman exit.

He was able to limp off the freeway and into the EconoLodge parking lot where he called for roadside assistance. He was told it would be 10 a.m. before help could arrive. He decided to sleep in his car rather than pay for a motel room for only a few hours of sleep.

At 9:45 a.m. there was a tap on his driver’s side window, but it wasn’t roadside assistance. It was a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy telling him to get out of his car and leave the parking lot.

At that same moment, inside EconoLodge Room 129, Pam and Paul Davidson of Ventura heard their room phone ring. Paul answered while Pam headed into the bathroom. What she heard in her husband’s voice scared her to death:

“Okay… okay… I’m wearing a gray sweatshirt and jeans and my wife’s wearing a black top and pajama bottoms… Turn right?… Okay… Okay…,” Paul, shaken, phone still in hand, turned to his wife.

“That was the police. There’s some kind of emergency. We have to get out of the room now, as soon as he tells us. And we can’t take anything with us.”

On the officer’s command, they opened their room door, turned right, and ran down the hallway to the outside exit. They were both barefooted.

In Room 123, three doors to their left, a man wanted on a murder warrant in Kansas was holed up inside with his two dogs.

For the Davidsons, this was the second time during their one week’s stay in Gorman that they had been interrupted by law enforcement activity.

Sunday night (or Monday, Pam couldn’t remember which), they heard an argument between a man and woman in the adjacent room. When they heard the man yell, “Shut up, bitch!” Paul went next door and asked them to “keep it down.”

“Next thing we knew, there was a patrol car and a motorcycle cop, lights flashing, and they arrested the couple next door.”

“We’re just not used to this,” Pam recounted, tears welling in her eyes. “This morning when we got outside, we were told to run across the street to the gas station.”

“‘Run now!’ the officer told us. And we did,” Paul added.

As the Davidsons were talking, more LA County Sheriff’s vehicles arrived on scene. Then everyone, including the media, was told to move from the Chevron station to the overpass “to get out of the line of fire.” Pam, an asthmatic, started to cry so I put them in my car and drove them to the McDonald’s just beyond the overpass where they would be more comfortable and where I could safely park my vehicle.

Thus began a several-hour standoff between Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Weapons Team (SWT) and Crisis Negotiations Team, numerous LA County Sheriff’s deputies, California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles County Fire Department Engine 77 and Franklin Grammer, 53 of Kansas City, Kansas.

The standoff ended at 3:15 p.m. when Grammer was removed from the room on a gurney with what appeared to be a “self-inflicted gunshot wound to the upper torso,” said Sergeant Darren Harris of the LA County Sheriff’s Department Santa Clarita station.

Sheriff’s negotiators initially made contact with Grammer at 1:10 p.m. but then were unable to re-establish communications with him. At 2:15 officers broke into the suspect’s vehicle, a blue Dodge Dakota pickup with Oklahoma plates parked in the motel’s lot. It was unclear what they were searching for.

At 2:45, a very loud, single report reverberated off the Gorman hills, and ten minutes later, an SWT officer was seen carrying poles with hooks on one end toward the motel. They are used to break windows and pull aside curtains so officers can see into the room. The canine unit was sent in, “but there was no response to the dog,” Sgt. Harris said.

At 3:07, four distinct “bangs” were heard, but they were too muffled to be gunshots and it was later confirmed that this was “cold gas” (i.e., tear gas) being inserted into the suspect’s room.

There was still no response and when officers entered the room, they found Grammer lying on the bed, unresponsive. His condition was stabilized by paramedics before he was placed on a gurney and into a waiting AMR ambulance that drove less than a quarter mile to the staging area where a Sheriff’s helicopter airlifted him to Holy Cross Hospital in Mission Hills.

Later that night, around 8:45 p.m., Sgt. Harris reported in an interview that hospital officials said there was no gunshot wound. The injury to the chest sustained by Grammer was from a dog bite. Grammer was unresponsive due to “self-ingested medication.” His condition is stable and his prognosis is good, Harris reports.

A weapon was found in Grammer’s room but it is unknown at this time whether it was the weapon used in the Kansas murder.

Grammer is wanted for the June 8 murder of his wife, Betty. She had applied for a court order to try to keep him away from her, fearing his violent threats, she wrote.

Grammer’s son and daughter from San Diego were flown in by the L.A. County Sheriff’s department, but they were unable to contact Grammer during the standoff. Grammer’s dogs were found unharmed and turned over to family members.

As for Jeremy Davis? He was finally allowed to retrieve his car and be on his way home to Mendocino.

And the Davidsons were relieved to hear that no one was killed and no innocent bystanders hurt.

“We’ll still look for a place to buy up here. But maybe we’ll rent for a while first,” Pam said. She’ll be reassured to learn how much things calm down once you get away from the drama that seems to float down the Interstate 5 freeway.

This is part of the June 19, 2009 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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