Fatal car chase stems from a seat belt violation, Ogden police say

(Jessica Miller | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ogden Police Chief Randy Watt shares details about a July 21, 2020 traffic stop turned police chase that killed 20-year-old James Lee Franklin.

Ogden • Police say a 20-year-old man who died after trying to flee a traffic stop held onto an Ogden police officer’s arm and sped away.

James Lee Franklin drove with the officer hanging from his car for nearly two blocks, Chief Randy Watt said Wednesday, before the officer fell. Franklin eventually crashed into another police car — an impact that killed him.

Watt said the confrontation began after an officer pulled Franklin over near 26th Street and Monroe Boulevard because he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. The chief said Franklin told the officer the license plates didn’t match the car he was driving. After the officer couldn’t find the vehicle registration in the system, he informed Franklin that he was going to impound the vehicle.

“Mr. Franklin put his seat belt on and then argued with the officers about the action,” Watt said, before the officer reached into the vehicle and tried to unbuckle Franklin and remove him from the car.

That’s when Franklin allegedly grabbed the officer’s arm, pinned it between his body and the seat belt, and began to drive away, according to the police chief.

Two officers who had arrived as back-up began to chase the vehicle, and the officer eventually fell from Franklin’s car.

Franklin continued to drive on Sullivan Road, where he lost control and struck an Ogden police car ahead of him. Police say Franklin also hit a 59-year-old man’s car, which had been pulled over to the other side of the road.

Watt estimated that Franklin was traveling about 60 or 70 mph when he struck the police car. He died from his injuries.

Two officers who were in the police car that was hit, as well as the officer who was dragged, were taken to the hospital for treatment of bruises, scrapes and abrasions.

“We were extremely fortunate with the nature of the injuries,” Watt said, “that they weren’t far worse.”

The Utah Highway Patrol will investigate, which Watt said is standard after an Ogden officer is involved in a car crash.