OCEANSIDE — An off-duty police officer was acquitted June 22 of charges relating to the shooting of a mother and her son during a 2008 road rage incident in an Oceanside shopping center.
After nearly 12 hours of deliberation, a panel of eight women and four men found Franklin James White, 29, a patrolman with the San Diego Police Department, not guilty of one felony count of discharging a firearm in a gross negligent manner with two allegations of great bodily injury and exhibiting his firearm, a misdemeanor. If he had been convicted, White had faced up to nine years in prison.
The incident occurred around 9 p.m. March 15, 2008, at the Lowe’s store parking lot in the 100 block of Old Grove Road in Oceanside after Rachel Silva pursued the Whites after she perceived they had cut her off. Dressed in plain clothes and driving his own car, White fired five .38-caliber rounds at Rachel Silva’s vehicle believing he and his wife, Jacquellyn, were going to be rammed as she reversed her car toward his.
Johnny Silva was shot once in his leg near his knee, while his mother was shot twice in her arm.
White and his wife, a Carlsbad police dispatcher, both testified at the trial that they never saw Johnny Silva, who was reclined in the passenger seat, during the incident.
Following the verdict, the Whites and their family and friends, who were in attendance throughout most of the three-week trial, whisked through the Vista courthouse denying requests to comment on the verdict.
As the Whites and their entourage moved hurriedly down the hall outside the courtroom, White’s attorney, Rick Pinckard, said, “I’m just glad it’s over for his family. It has been a long 16 months.”
White, who had been on voluntary unpaid administrative leave from the San Diego Police Department, was reactivated June 23, according to authorities. He will return to active duty early next week; however, he is still facing a mandatory internal affairs investigation from within the department regarding his adherence to policy and procedure.
“We were confident the justice system would find no question that Frank is innocent of these charges, said Brian R. Marvel, president of the San Diego Police Officers Association, in a press release following the acquittal. “It has been an arduous journey for Frank and his family. We are incredibly happy that they will be able to finally close this chapter in their lives and hopefully return to a sense of normalcy.”
Throughout the trial, Pinckard argued that though Rachel Silva was not on trial, her conduct was. He said that evening Rachel Silva was approximately 600 yards from home when she instigated the confrontation, which he said was further fueled by the fact that she was buried under the influence of alcohol and methamphetamines.
Rachel Silva, who was 28 at the time, had a blood alcohol level of 0.15 two hours after the incident and tested positive for marijuana and amphetamines in her system, which the defense contends were methamphetamines. She had also been driving on a suspended license.
Additionally, Pinckard cited a prior road rage incident Rachel Silva instigated in which her son was with her.
During the trial, Deputy District Attorney Jeff Dusek acknowledged that Rachel Silva started the incident and gave no indication of a willingness to stop; however, he argued that White hadn’t identified himself as a police officer when he fired the five shots from inside his vehicle through a closed window.
“It was an emotional case based upon a police officer who by all accounts is a decent guy, is a decent police officer,” Dusek said outside the courtroom. “And we had a victim who had her troubles in the past, was unable to come in here and testify and that is always difficult to overcome.”
Rachel Silva did not testify at the trial citing her Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate herself from the witness stand. She has pleaded guilty to a single felony count of child endangerment and a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence. When she is sentenced this summer, she faces up to four years in prison.