A $50,000 reward was offered Tuesday for information that helps solve the 1975 shooting death of Long Beach police Officer Franke Neal Lewis, who was killed near his home in east Long Beach while coming to another man's aid.
According to police, Lewis had arrived home from his shift about 3 a.m. on Dec. 13, 1975, when he witnessed a man, later identified as Denis Gitschier, being attacked by an unknown assailant in the 6200 block of Cantel Street, near the officer's house.
Lewis, who had been with the Long Beach Police Department for about two years, was shot in the face and died at the scene. The father of two died in his wife's arms. Gitschier, who said he was driving home and pulled off the freeway to sleep, was beaten in the attack and hospitalized for several days but survived.
The assailant escaped with the officer's gun, badge and police identification. The badge and identification were recovered on March 12, 1976, from a vacant residence at 915 S. Acacia Ave. in Compton, but the gun has not been found. Investigators have learned that one and possibly two vehicles with several occupants, described only as black males and females, were in the area at the time of the shooting. They were not believed to be area residents, police said.
The vehicles were both described as four-door Cadillac Fleetwoods, one a mid-1970s model with a black top and blue body and the other a white early- 1960s model. Long Beach Police Department Chief Robert Luna announced the reward at an afternoon news conference at the Long Beach Police & Fire Memorial.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, at the recommendation of Long Beach area Supervisor Don Knabe, approved $10,000 of the reward money last week and the Long Beach Police Officers Association and the Fraternal Order of Police increased the amount to $50,000. Mayor Robert Garcia said he will ask the City Council next week to approve another $25,000.
"I am calling on anyone with information about this case to come forward right away and help bring Officer Lewis' killer to justice," Garcia said. "No one who takes the life of a Long Beach police officer should be walking free, and we need your help to bring closure to Officer Lewis' family and to our community."
Anyone with information about the killing, or who may have been involved or lived in the relevant areas of Long Beach and Compton in 1975 was urged to call Long Beach police homicide detectives at (562) 570-7244. Anonymous tips can be supplied by calling Crime Stoppers at (800) 222- TIPS, texting TIPLA plus the tip information to 274637 (CRIMES) or visiting LACrimeStoppers.org.