On Jan. 23, 2013, one of Long Island’s coldest nights in years, Jack Franqui shivered in a Suffolk County Police Department holding cell wearing only his socks and underwear, his bruised body soaked in toilet water. He had been ranting for hours that the cops had unfairly targeted him and that he planned to leave his cell in a body bag.
He fashioned a noose from a pair of bluejeans knotted to the bars of his cell. It was the third time in a matter of hours that Franqui — a 26-year-old man from Rocky Point booked on misdemeanor charges — had tied something to the bars. Officers on duty at the Seventh Precinct in Shirley had already confiscated a blanket and Franqui’s T-shirt in separate incidents. But officers ignored protocol and failed to put Franqui under closer supervision or transport him to a hospital.
A medical examiner would later state that it takes roughly ten minutes for somebody to die by hanging the way Franqui did. During that time, the only other prisoner in the cellblock said he faced a surveillance camera, made frantic gestures toward Franqui’s cell and screamed for officers to come save the dying man.
When nobody came, he gave up. He heard gasping, bones cracking and then silence.
An officer eventually noticed Franqui’s dangling body on a closed-circuit monitor.
“What is this guy doing now?” the officer, Joseph Simeone, remarked.
Franqui’s body was cold to the touch by the time officers made it to the cellblock. Deciding there was no point in trying to resuscitate him, officers left Franqui’s body hanging in his makeshift noose.
The homicide detectives who arrived soon after began to piece together what had gone wrong. The officers on duty kept records documenting prisoner checks that may not have actually occurred. The officers failed to act not only after Franqui had tied two items to the bars, but also despite obvious signs of erratic behavior witnessed by the other prisoner — including banging his head repeatedly against the wall, drenching himself in toilet water and begging to be taken to the hospital.
Detectives found that an intercom system that pipes in sound from the cellblock to where officers were stationed 70 feet away had been switched off. And officers had turned up the volume on a TV they were watching loud enough to drown out the other prisoner’s screams for help.
Suffolk County’s law enforcement officials did not tell the public this story of failure and neglect. Instead, the department contradicted its own internal documents in saying that Franqui was calm, at ease and showed “no indication” that he was suicidal before he took officers by surprise and suddenly killed himself.
Franqui’s family got the same story, and for months, they had no choice but to assume it was the truth.