The daughter and wife of Officer Franke Lewis (first and second from left, respectively) and victim Denis Gitschier (fourth from left).
The Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) on Tuesday revealed new evidence surrounding the 1975 fatal shooting of Officer Franke Lewis and announced a combined reward of up to $75,000 for any information.
Since reopening the case a few years ago and conducting several interviews across the country, officials said they are now looking for two vehicles that had several black male and female occupants who were not known to residents in the area at the time of the incident.
The vehicles are described as a mid-'70s, black top, blue body 4-door Fleetwood Cadillac and an early '60s white four-door Fleetwood Cadillac.
The reward combines a $10,000 reward offered by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last week and $40,000 offered by the Long Beach Police Officers Association and the Fraternal Order of Police. If the Long Beach City Council approves an additional $25,000 the reward would total $75,000, according to LBPD Chief Robert Luna.
According to authorities, on December 13, 1975, Lewis was driving home at about 3:00AM after having completed his shift when he spotted suspicious activity in a car parked a few doors down from his Long Beach house in the 6200 block of Cantel Street, police said.
Investigators think Lewis parked his car and walked toward the disturbance to investigate and was shot as he approached.
The gunman had attacked a man named Denis Gitschier—a teacher at the time and graduate of Cal State Long Beach— who pulled off the freeway to sleep after feeling tired.
“The next thing I knew I wake up and am covered with blood and can't see and it was already over at that point,” said Gitschier at the conference.
According to Gitschier, he was knocked unconscious after the first blow to his head. He had left his door unlocked, thinking no one would try to steal it while he was inside.
“The surgeon at the time said I was lucky that Officer Lewis came when he did because you can only take so many blows to the head,” added Gitschier.
Lewis was pronounced dead at the scene.
Months later, on March 12, 1976, Lewis’ police badge, badge holder and identification were recovered from a vacant home on 1915 South Acacia Avenue in the city of Compton.
His duty weapon remains outstanding, officials said.
In addition, officials said there have been multiple people of interest but charges were not sought against of them. One person was arrested early on but charges were not sought and that person was released, said David Hendricks, deputy chief of investigations.
Hendricks said fingerprint evidence has been submitted for evaluation through the use of new technology, but refused to answer the results of those tests.
“This is the only new information that we’re releasing right now,” Hendricks said. “We’re asking anyone who may have been in the East Long Beach neighborhood or Compton area in 1975 and recall seeing anything out of the ordinary to please contact the LBPD. I'm also asking anyone who may have been involved or who otherwise has any information about the murder of Long Beach Officer Lewis to please come forward and contact the Long Beach Police Department."
"We’d like nothing more than to apprehend the person or persons responsible for Officer Lewis' death and more importantly to bring closure to the family you see here with us today," said Luna.