By JANET FRANKSTON LORIN
Associated Press Writer
PATERSON, N.J. -- The rookie off-duty police officer was wearing civilian clothing on his day off. He wasn't armed.
With a friend waiting in a car outside, Tyron Franklin, the father of 16-month-old son, stopped early Sunday morning at a take-out chicken restaurant in Paterson, a rough town about 20 miles west of New York City.
Moments later, the 23-year-old Franklin was killed during a botched robbery, authorities said. They believe the robber was tempted by the sight of an open wallet.
"He pulled out money to pay and that's what attracted (the shooter)," said police Lt. Anthony Traina. "In Paterson, $2 is a lot of money."
Traina said in that neighborhood, filled with bars and fast-food restaurants, some residents buy a single cigarette because they cannot afford a pack.
Franklin, a patrolman with the department since he graduated from the Paterson Police Academy last April, was shot several times with a handgun after a struggle around 1:15 a.m., as a few employees looked on.
He was rushed to St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, where he was pronounced dead at about 2:05 a.m. Another person shot in the confrontation, identified only as a 42-year-old man, also was taken there and was in stable condition Sunday night with wounds that authorities said were not considered life-threatening.
Police said they were searching for at least one person involved in the shooting, who fled the scene in a van or sport utility vehicle, but they declined to provide further details.
Several hours after the shooting, police still had an entire block around the restaurant closed to traffic with yellow police tape, keeping curious onlookers at a distance. Meanwhile, Paterson Mayor Jose Torres initially offered $1,000 reward for information on the shooter, but other individuals soon offered additional funds, boosting the reward offer to $16,000.
Paterson City Councilman Anthony Davis, among those outside the shooting scene on Sunday afternoon, said he had met Franklin several times. Davis knew the officer through Franklin's father, a retired fire captain in Paterson.
"He was a fine young man," Davis said of Franklin. "His dad wanted him to become a fireman, but he wanted to become a police officer."
Franklin's survivors include his 16-month-old son, Tyron Jr., or "T.J," his mother, three sisters and a brother.
In Franklin's hometown of Westwood, police outside his parents' home said friends and family gathered there were not ready to speak with the media.
His former high school principal, however, could not say enough about the young officer.
Westwood High school Principal Patrick Bower described Franklin as a gregarious athlete who played football and wrestled, always with a friendly face.
"Outgoing, big smile, hardworking kid," Bower said. "I really enjoyed him. When I say his name, I see his smile come right to my mind. It's a definite loss for the community, no question."